For a guy who is not much of a modern rap fan, Michael ‘M-Dot’ Januario certainly is having some marked success in the rap world.
Januario has burst upon the rap scene in the last four years and this month the Revere native is up for the Hip Hop Act of the Year in Boston’s 22nd Annual Best Music Poll.
Additionally, he has toured Europe, North America and has significant airtime of his songs on radio stations like Jam’N 94.9. He has also played shows with big time rap artists like Whodini, DJ Premier, and Kid Cudi.
And so how is it that he doesn’t really care for rap?
Well, it’s more like he doesn’t care for the current rap environment, and he’s trying to change it.
“I don’t like rap nowadays,” he told the Journal, noting that he has a 3-year-old son. “It’s all guns and gangs and junk like that and that’s so bad for the kids. It used to have a message and that’s what I’m trying to bring back…I want my music to be the kind of stuff you could show your mom and be proud of.
“I just want to make good music,” he continued. “I want people who don’t like rap to like what I’m doing. [Today’s rap] is frustrating, but at the same time it makes me work harder because I want to come up to people and show them who I really am and how I’m different. I want people to respect it.”
M-Dot (which stands for Musically Driven Over Time) said his music is more about hard work, conflict resolution, family life and stories about everyday life.
“I love writing,” he said. “My influences are everything from [15th Century poet] John Milton to Tupac Shakur.”
Januario, though a legitimate rising star in the rap world, had humble beginnings in Revere.
The son of Diane (Grasso) Januario and John Januario, and the nephew of comedian Artie Januario, he went to school at the Beachmont Elementary and Middle Schools. He graduated from the Northeast Vocational Technical School in Wakefield in 2001 and was quite a basketball player there.
He eventually landed at Fitchburg State, where he played basketball and earned an English degree.
It was through his basketball career that he got seriously interested in rap music. However, it was his mother and a little tape recorder that started his career.
M-Dot said that his mother used to play records for him all the time, from Sam Cook to Frank Sinatra. His love of writing and a newfound interest in rap music got him into performing.
“ I would listen to the radio and then I started recording myself on a little tape recorder,” he said. “I had music playing behind me and I taped it. I started showing my friends and that started getting me going. They said it was pretty good and I figured if I could sound just as good as the people on the radio and CDs, then maybe I could be a rapper.”
Januario built a studio in his basement, and to this day he records in that studio. That, in and of itself, is a testament to his hustling nature – promoting, producing and booking himself with little or no personal expenditure.
“I built a real studio in the basement and songs that are on Jam’N 94.9 right now were made in that basement studio,” he said. “I’ve never paid for studio time ever. I write, produce, engineer make everything.”
Januario hasn’t worked for four years now, surviving totally on the proceeds of his music career, but he said that didn’t happen by sitting back and waiting for good things to happen. In fact, it happened by his trademark hard work and hustling.
“I started doing shows all the time – six shows on Friday and six shows on Saturday,” he said. “I would come home and go right back out to do a show. I performed for free and then I started getting paid. The more I performed, the more I built up my catalog.”
However, it was when he was on a plane to France to perform on a European Tour that he realized things were going his way.
“On my way to Europe, that’s when I knew this is what I was going to do,” he said.
Now, M-Dot finds himself traveling a lot with big name rap artists, but also still doing local shows.
He noted that he would be performing on June 17th at the Middle East in Cambridge, and that he has a music video, “No Money Down,” that is currently ranked #6 in the country on the rap music charts.
Soon, he will be coming out with a new album called ‘Run MPC’ that features appearances by Keith Murray, Akrobatik, Big Shug and a number of others.
“I want people to appreciate my music because it’s really good and because I worked for it,” he said. “Really, I fought for it.”