Friday, November 7, 2008

For rapper M-Dot, hustling pays off

By Martin Caballero
Friday, November 7, 2008

The hustler has become a hip-hop stereotype that almost every rising rapper uses to describe himself.

But it’s hard to think of a more appropriate description for Michael Januario, also known as M-Dot.

If there’s a club owner, promoter or hip-hop fan who hasn’t heard his name by now, Januario is working ceaselessly to change that. M-Dot is set to play more than 60 shows this year at venues from Cambridge to Las Vegas to Italy - all of which he’s booked himself. He’s also been recording and editing new material at his studio in his parent’s Lynn home, where he lives.

If M-Dot seems overworked, it doesn’t show.

“I’m not going to lie, I don’t trust anyone else doing it,” he said. “It’s like someone who gets a pain somewhere but doesn’t get it checked. I’m used to doing it myself. I love the misery of it. Not the misery, but the end result of it is better than me waiting on somebody.”

It’s that passionate, maybe even obsessive drive that has taken M-Dot far in the two years since he committed himself to music full-time. Like any self-respecting hustler, he’s built his reputation on an aggressive self-run campaign of shows, mixtapes and industry networking. His responsibilities range from posting fliers to Web design to coordinating recording sessions. Anything he doesn’t do himself doesn’t get done.

“I performed in Pittsburgh the first time for around five or six people,” he said. “88.9 WERS wouldn’t believe it was me on the phone when I used to call in and request my own songs. Now this past year I did Vegas three or four times, Pittsburgh four times and New Jersey twice just from me calling them and calling them. Opportunity knocks for everyone, you just got to be there to answer the door.”

The strategy has been working. M-Dot counts veteran Boston artists Krumbsnatcha and 7L as friends and collaborators on his forthcoming album, which - no surprise - he plans to distribute himself. He’ll also be opening for national artists at Harpers Ferry two weekends in a row, beginning tomorrow with New York lyricist Cormega.

M-Dot’s work ethic can be heard in his music:

“This rap gets me jaded, I hate it but I never quit/If I did I’d only be forever regretting it/So I keep writing and fighting/I might end up writing the diamond igniting those who need to be enlightened,” he raps on one track.

M-Dot’s style is true to his personality: genuine but not patronizing, real but not trying to act hard.

“I tell my mom I’m going to be in the Herald for positive stuff, not for shooting or stabbing anyone,” he said.

M-Dot’s working for something other than money or even fans. Like most ambitious people, he defines success on his own terms: In his case, it’s making him and his family proud.

“I feel like I’m not doing enough,” he said. “I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. My mom comes home after working her (rear end) off, and I’m a rapper? I’ve got to continue to do things and get bigger and bigger and bigger.”

M-Dot, with Cormega, at Harpers Ferry, Allston, tomorrow, 18-plus. Tickets: $18; 617-254-9743.

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