Marino Maali on Being a Deaf Rapper

Categories: Local Music, Q&A


Marino Maali lounges in the backyard of his friend's house.

His arms are covered with tattoos of Psalm 23, a coy fish, the name of his hometown, Windsor Castle, and the footprints of his son. His non-stop smile bridges the space between his ears. Behind his left ear, a hearing aid.

"These don't even work as good," says Maali. "They're broken, but they all I got right now. These shit expensive, you feel me? Them bitches go for, like, about $3000 each and shit like that. I went to the doctor the other day and they was telling me I needed surgery now. That's why I wear the hearing aids."

See also: Miami's Top Ten Rappers on the Come-Up

Since elementary school the 28-year-old rapper has been aware of his hearing impairment, but has not let it control his desire to record evident by 2011's Me, Myself & High, 2012's Respect The Vibe and last year's Loud & Proud and Me, Myself & High 2.

Crossfade recently hung out with Maali to talk about being a deaf rapper, staying positive, what his son has taught him, and more.

Crossfade: When did you find out you were deaf?
Marino Maali: In third grade, second grade my teacher noticed I couldn't hear good, and then I went and got a test, and I found out I was deaf in both ears. I should've been wearing hearing aids from then but I always had a little problem with then. They was annoying to me, so I never really wore them as much.

One may think you find it more difficult recording.
Not really because I be feeling the beat, you feel me? Some people listen to it, some people feel it. I mean certain beats I may not catch, because of high frequency I can't hear them as good, but certain beats I feel it. It's what I was born to do.

What's the most frustrated you've felt while recording due to being deaf?
The only time I get frustrated I get is if the beat not my style. I like basses and shit I can feel and vibrations. But, I never really get frustrated because I love what I do. You're supposed to have fun when you're doing it.

As far as mixing and mastering, I can't hear everything that I'm supposed to hear, but I know I could do what I could do. I can hear myself rapping. My mind can tell me what to do. But as far as hearing everything else, that might be a little bit frustrating.

When did you start recording?
I grew up in the studio. My uncle is a Rasta. And he used to have all the big artists come from Jamaica and stuff like that. I was the only kid. My mom used to drop me off by my uncle when she used to go to work.

I used to always watch people recording and all that, but when I started recording my uncle's son, he grew up and became a producer. It was my little cousin. He was about 15, I was about 16, 17, and we used to play around in the studio. I went to Tallahassee, but I never went to school, I was just working. We started freestyling, me and the homeboy, me and the roommate, and we got the studio in there and that's where it really started off at, Tallahassee. And I came down here, started paying for studio time, because people was liking what I do. I started paying for studio time and I linked up with Sean Buck.

How long did it take for you to get used to the lack of hearing?
Musically or in life?

As far as adjusting, it's an emotional thing. It's like a religion. I smoke weed to get high to get away from the problems, music is like the same thing. So music was an adjustment from by problems. It wasn't really nothing to adjust to it. Even though I can't hear, music is my getaway.

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