January 26, 2021
Tune-In Tuesdays #90: Marnino Toussaint on “Who Yo’ Stylist”
South Florida rapper Marnino Toussaint rocks a brown suit as he stands in an open field, looking thoughtfully at the cameraSource: Marnino
Warm, down-to-earth, and incredibly personable, South Florida rapper Marnino Toussaint strives to inspire his community through his poetic music and passion for art.
Following the release of his latest single “Who Yo’ Stylist,” we spoke to Toussaint to learn more about the track. The artist also shared the story behind his love for making music and told us a little about his upcoming EP, “What Had Happened Was.”
Tell us a little about yourself and your music
My name is Marnino. I’m from the city of Miramar, Fla — I don’t live there anymore, but that’s where I’m from. It’s in Broward and right on the edge of Miami.
I lived there most of my life; that’s kind of where I learned how to be an artist. It’s a really small, small town, but there are a lot of big artists that came out of that area. Johnny Depp graduated from our high school and then there’s Ace Wood, Rick Ross went to Carol City High School.
I didn’t really know [music] was something I wanted to do, but I think that might’ve influenced me becoming an artist a little bit.
I don’t know if you’re based in Florida or not, but “Florida Boys” is like a real thing that we say down here. It’s like a different culture, being from Florida, in the way that we act, talk, do things. A lot of that is in me and a lot of that is in my music.
Six or seven years ago I started out making music as just a rapper, now it’s a lot of R&B. I’m not sure where or why that’s a thing, but I like it.
It sounds like your community has played a huge role in your music and your career. What inspired you to start making music? What role did music play in your early life?
I was one of those kids in middle and high school that had no concept of what I wanted to do with my life. There are some people who, since they were five were like, “I want to be an astronaut!” No, that wasn’t me.
I do know that entertainment wasn’t pushed on me, but people saw that in me — like my mom. When I was growing up, she used to say I’d grow up to be a comedian… Don’t ask me to tell a joke, though [laughs]. I’m situationally-funny [laughs].
Anyway, I did plays and whatnot growing up, so entertainment was something I always liked. But I didn’t know music was going to be a thing for me.
When I was in 6th grade, I was tasked with four other guys by our teacher to make a song about FCAT, our standardized test. We did that in front of the whole school, and from that year we were like, “Y’know what!? We’re gonna start a rap group!” [Laughs].
That was a strong month of us believing we were gonna start a rap group and then it just fizzled away.
The moment I started realizing this was something I really wanted to do was in high school… I’m an omnivert right now. I could be an introvert sometimes, but when I need to I can be social. Back then I was super introverted, didn’t really talk to people, so I didn’t have a lot of friends.
It was my first day at the school and this guy comes up to me and asks if I want to go to the Cipher. I had no clue what that was, but he explained that it was just a bunch of guys who were going to rap.
And seriously for me means the day I started really thinking about [music] every day. It was when I decided I wanted to go and buy myself a microphone.
I remember my mom going to Sam’s Club and buying me one of those boxes of candy. I started selling the candy, going and buying more boxes to sell more until I could afford my own microphone and laptop so I could start making music.
Aww, that’s so sweet! You were a little entrepreneur.
In that period too, I was like, “Man, maybe I should do business” because I really started to be really good at that. So much so that after selling candy for the week, I’d set money aside like, “Okay, this is going to be for more candy, this is going to be for my microphone.”
I even had enough that I was like, “Here’s some for my grandma and my mom,” and I’d give them some money, too.
That was a fun time.
The fact that you even set some aside for your mom and grandmother really warmed my heart! So, who have been some of your biggest inspirations over the years, and who are some of your role models, both personally and musically?
Musically… So I’m also a poet, right? There’s a poet named Joshua Bennett. I credit him a lot both poetically and musically because a lot of what I do as a poet transfers over musically.
I think poets make the best musical artists because they can really write. Songwriters impress me and it’s usually those people who are poetic, too.
Joshua Bennett is a super amazing poet who has done some really cool things. Like a couple of years ago, he did a poem at the White House. Learning who he was and studying what he did was a super big inspiration.
It’s funny, people who hear my music will compare me to Drake — and also apologize at the same time. Like, “Hey, I hope this doesn’t offend you, but you kind of sound like Drake.”
And I’m like, “That’s not something to apologize about, that’s awesome.” Obviously I want to be myself, but Drake’s one of the best artists of this time. He’s definitely an inspiration and an influence on my music.
It’s a long list. Stevie Wonder’s a big influence, he’s one of my favorite singers of all time.
Did you start out with poetry first — like before you bought your microphone — or did both loves evolve at the same time?
I went to the Cipher, I started rapping, but we all grow and change. I was never a non-progressive person, but I know that I’m a man in the United States and I have my implicit biases. People would tell me I should write poems, and I was like, “I’ll never write a poem! Poems are overly emotional!”
I had that toxic masculinity or whatever that would prevent me from writing a poem. It’s so crazy that’s something young boys are so afraid of, showing emotion.
I was rapping at that high school — Johnny Depp’s high school [laughs]. This teacher told me there was an upcoming poetry slam I should join, but I was like, “Nah, I’m not doing that.”
She was like, “Y’know what? You can come to the slam and you can rap.” And I was like, [enthusiastically] “Okay, yeah! Totally!” She got me.
This was my senior year. I decided I was going to do it, I had it totally planned. I had my heartbroken by this girl and I wrote a poem about it. I ended up winning the poetry slam with that poem.
On and on, I started writing more poetry, still rapping. Then singing became part of it kind of far after. I didn’t know that I could sing ’cause I didn’t really try.
Musical artists that I appreciate are experimental. Maybe they’re rapping, maybe they’re singing, maybe they slide into country music, you never know. And I like that, so I started doing that and realizing it was something I could do, too.
I’m so glad your teacher was clever enough to convince you and that you ended up winning! Your website also talks about some of the collaborations you’ve done with actors including Omari Hardwick, Victoria Justice, and author Mary Pope Osborne. What have been your favorite collaborative projects and why — and for my own sake, I’ve got to ask: Victoria Justice as in “Victorious?”
Yeah, yeah, from “Victorious!” We did an event together, I think she was just hosting it. She’s really cool. She also said that my humor reminded her of Andre from “Victorious.”
Those bigger-name events are cool, but a lot of times it’s just something you do in passing. Like me and her were in the same room, we talked a little bit, then you go on.
One of my favorite collaborations was with a Jamaican photographer who was brought down here by an organization called Path to executively produce an album of artists from the United States, Jamaica, and Antigua. I was the artist from America that was chosen to be in that project.
That’s my favorite project ’cause it was cool. We actually created this album together over the span of only a week, which is intense. We spent a lot of time together; we’d go out and do things that weren’t related to the album, just bonding.
It was really funny and they were some of the coolest people I’ve met. [The photographer’s name] is Jik Reuben.
The album’s not out yet. We started the process of it right before COVID. After recording everything, the plan was to have us go to Jamaica — which I’ve never been there — and shoot a video for one of the songs. Then COVID hit.
I think it’ll be out this year, though.
So tell me a little about your latest single, “Who Yo’ Stylist.”
“Who Yo’ Stylist” is part of an EP that I’m releasing later this year called, “What Had Happened Was.” [The EP is] a lot of music that just reflects 2020, y’know?
I’m not trying to tell the story of 2020 — there’s no song about COVID or anything like that — but the feelings of 2020. Those songs talk about love, “Who Yo’ Stylist” is about seeing someone who’s totally independent, cool, and you just wanting to be around them more.
There’s a song on the EP about being alone and obviously we felt that during quarantine. That music is just a reflection of how I felt in that time, the things I’ve seen, and the things I’ve experienced.
What was your process for creating this single specifically? Did you start with the lyrics, the instrumental? Tell us about it.
My normal process is I prefer to hear the music first. Whether it’s me creating it or somebody else, I prefer to hear it first. I’ll hum to the melody and the words come last.
Sometimes, there are these special songs — like this one. You never know what’s going to be “the song,” you never know what’s going to work for people.
For me, the songs I’m most confident in are ones like “Who Yo’ Stylist” where, literally, everything came all at once.
“Who Yo’ Stylist” was produced by someone who lives in South Africa. He sent me this and the moment I heard it, I was singing the words.
There’s no real explanation for it and it’s happened like three times before to me. But every single time, those are some of my favorite songs.
As soon as I heard it, I got something to record, I got my Voice Memo on my phone, I played the song out loud, and I just started recording a demo of what I wanted it to sound like.
It sounds like there was a great flow throughout the process of making “Who Yo’ Stylist,” but is there any moment that stands out in particular as your favorite?
We shot the video out in Homestead, which is in South Florida. It does not get cold like that in Miami, so the first scene of the video is me and the love interest in our underwear.
We had planned to shoot it months in advance, but for some reason, the day we chose was the day Miami decided to be cold [laughs], so we were FREEZING. So much so that I woke up the next day with a cold.
So I was like, half naked in the cold. It was challenging but it was also super funny, especially having extras and everyone laughing. People were like, “Hey, you look like your cold. Try to not look cold.”
That was one of the most fun things I’ve done in a minute — especially during the time of the pandemic.
The videographer, he’s hilarious, he was like, “Oh my God… I didn’t get anything… We have to shoot it again.” I was like, “WHAT!? What are you talking about?” [Laughs] and he was like, “Nah, I’m just playing.”
MY HEART WOULD’VE SAAAANK. It would’ve taken me a moment to even process that it was a joke. Ah. But overall, how do you hope to impact your listeners and your community through your music?
I do a lot of different things in the community with non-profit and arts organizations, but the answer changes a lot.
If you would’ve asked me this question in 2018-2019, I used to tell people my whole purpose for doing art was so people could realize it’s possible.
Back in high school, I had a friend who was super talented. When I asked him what was next after we graduate, he was like, “I’m gonna go work for my dad.”
When I asked him, “What about your music,” he said, “Oh no. This isn’t practical. After we graduate I’m done.”
He really put it in my heart that I had to make people see it was possible to live off music. I’m not saying everyone’s going to be the most famous ever, but you could put 10 years in to go to medical school you may not even get a residency. But if you put that time in, you’re heightening your chances.
So that became my drive: just showing people that it’s possible to do this for your life.
But lately, the actual answer to the question is I just want people to feel happy, or good, or feel something. I make music for myself; I love the music that I make and it makes me feel good.
So I hope when others listen to it that it gets stuck in their head and makes them want to dance a little bit. Maybe it makes them want to think about what I’m talking about a little bit. That’s the whole purpose of music.
It’s just as it is important to inspire people as it is to really connect with them on that deep, emotional level. I know so many people who go into careers they’re not happy in simply because they feel socially obligated to pursue a traditional career. The money will come; if you do what makes you happy, you will find a way to make it.
I sit here and I think about it, too. We’re intersectional. We have a lot of different things we could be, so it bothers me sometimes that people think they have to hang up their dreams just because they have a job.
It’s funny ’cause the drummer of my band is also a med school student. He was at Duke University and now he’s somewhere else in Boston. Don’t get me wrong, he’s tired. He’s so tired.
He’s in his last year of school, getting ready for residency, but he also makes time for us. We practice all the time and I’m sure once this is all over we’ll perform. He gets it. He gets that you can be two things.
On that note, if you could give your listeners any one piece of advice, what would it be and why?
I worked at an arts organization for almost five years. I had stayed there because I was comfortable. I thought that as long as I’m around art, I’m satisfied.
But I was unhappy at some points and then I realized I was afraid of change. So I decided to leave and put my energy towards what I believed in.
Crazy decision, I moved into my first apartment. It’s insane that I left my job and moved into an apartment. That’s not the advice I’d give, but I was afraid of change so I decided to change EVERYTHING. I wanted to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
So I guess that’s the advice: get comfortable being uncomfortable. Be okay changing things up a little bit and exploring the possibilities for your life.
Even if it’s not a career change, change your routine up a little bit and be okay not know exactly what’s going to happen every day. That’s what makes life interesting.
Yes! I love that saying, “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum: I’m addicted to change. I can’t sit still to save my life, I constantly need to be doing something new, something different. But I’m also very cautious, so I’m not impulsive… Both parts of my personality clash immensely. Similarly, I also quit my job, went back to freelancing full-time, and moved into my first apartment. You’ve got to make those changes.
Ahaha, people hearing this are going to be like, “Y’know what? The plan is leave your job and move into an apartment.”
Yeah, without any financial stability, JUST DO IT [Laughs].
But I agree. It’s so crazy because that’s literally where my head was at, too. I was like, “Yo, I’m in my 20s.” One of my biggest fears is, I guess, failure?
It’s weird for me to say it outloud. People’ll be like, “Oh, I’m afraid of death” or “alligators.”
But for me, I don’t want to be 30 or 40 and realize — even though it’s not technically failure — that I just sat in one place for the last 10 years because I thought it would make me the most comfortable. That doesn’t sound like success to me.
Going forward, what’s next for you, Marnino? I know you had mentioned an EP, do you have any release dates in mind yet?
There’s no release date confirmed yet because the plan is to put out another single. After that single we’ll decide on the date.
But the next song may be in February. It’s very different from this one in that it’s super soft and R&B. It feels really gentle. It’s almost an A and B [track] to “Who’s Yo Stylist.”
Give Marnino Toussaint’s latest single, “Who Yo’ Stylist” a listen on Spotify now!
Be sure to follow Marnino on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok to keep up with his upcoming music releases.
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