The first time meeting Maine Damage, aspiring emcee, was sitting in a Korean barbeque restaurant in his hometown on Queens, NY trying to figure out what kind of meat was being thrust upon us by his other band mate and manager, Chris Nimmons.
Instead of being dressed in typical hip-hop rap stars drab of bagging jeans, diamonds and platinum frosted chains, and highly expensive name brand clothing. The young aspiring musician is dressed modestly in well fitted jeans, a comic book inspired t-shirt, and black rimmed glasses.
Not as flamboyant as a Kanye West or as gangster as a Lil Wayne, Damage looks more like a studious college kid rather than an serious emcee who wants to break into the music industry.
Damage is the lead vocalist of Mind Standards, an experimental hip-hop band from Queens that takes multiple genres and mixing them to make this kaleidoscope of music.
With the success of his first gig back in September at Fat Baby a bar & lounge in Manhattan, Damage is starting to see that his dreams become a reality. According to Damage, the crowd was giving off a lot of energy which made the emcee and the rest of band even more motivated to play. The club organizer booked more shows for the band, this time for all ages since their first gig was 21 and up.
Born on Sept. 5th, 1991 under the name of Jermaine Manigault, believed he was born to express his love for the arts through the use of sound. Even as a kid he would bang away on pots and pans. Anything and everything was considered music to him.
He grew up with an interesting; some might say eclectic taste in music. Thanks to his father he appreciates artists such as Prince, who influenced the eccentricity that Maine Damage has tried to live his life by.
Rakim, The Funkdelicas, Michael Jackson, Lupe Fiscao, and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, are just some of the many different artists Maine cites as his musical influences.
“The message I want to express is basically, the system doesn’t work,” Damage says. “I don’t want to be too radical and say that, but I am going to stick to the fact that I’m really fed up with the way society, the way people conform in society.”
He is also particularly fond on the long boarding movement that came out of the early ‘70s. Expressing his love for long boarders like the Z-Boys and the Dogtown, this specific era is important to the young emcee.
Maine even acknowledges, “I’m a punk. I will admit that, I am.”
So how does a young black emcee from Queens try to take his love for punk and somehow make it work in the hip-hop community?
Damage heavily pulls inspirations from the punk era, from bands such as The Clash, the Ramones, and the Sex Pistols, which he says are his biggest musical influences.
Part of the punk ethos is anti-establishment against the government. Like most adolescents, Damage discovered this way of thinking while attending school. When he entered into high school he viewed it as nothing more than a breeding ground for stereotypical teenage consumers who only followed the trends. Damage came to the conclusion that he wanted to express his views on society by furthering his interest in music.
Dabbling in numerous bands while in high school, he found a like minded group of guys in an orthodox kind of a fashion. During his junior year, he was in between bands and was kind of a part of a loosely connected, untitled group. At the time he wasn’t sure where he would fit into the band.
They were sitting around a food court in Queens Center Mall. It was there that Damage met Billy Zane, who sat down at the table with a bucket of chicken.
“It was so fucking gross and disgusting,” Damage says. “He starts eating like the greasy ones and I’m like this white boy is out of his mind.”
Things changed when the conversation turned to music.
“We started talking about everyone, from Michael Jackson, to Prince, to what’s going on in hip-hop, what’s going on in rock, where pop is standing at the times,” Damage recalls. “That was when it was just me and him talking, which made it funny. Everyone else was just like, it got to the point where the former drummer, who knew only about metal, had nothing to say. Then our bassist, he kind of got lost because we were jumping from topic to topic…It was almost a battle between me and him. We were just going back and forth, back and forth. At the end of the day he was the one who really reeled me into the band. I was like we have to do something together.”
Automatically clicking with Zane, and eventually the rest of the band, Damage decided that he had to make something from the untitled group, except the drummer, whom he would not name. One problem: The drummer founded the band.
His reasons, “We wanted to expand our music, and not be contained by one genre. He could only do one genre. It was time to move, to progress, and grow. Then we came up with another band, The Wanted, and that lead to Mind Standards.”
It is unsurprising that Damage would do this, because he is constantly struggling to break barriers, particularly in music. To confine him to one genre would be counterproductive, and if one wants to keep up with him, one has to have wide-raging tastes.
“What are you doing with your life where you only listen to one genre of music?” he asks.
Yet as he struggles with trying to break musical barriers, he is also trying to figure out where he will go from there.
So if Damage doesn’t fit into the stereotype why is it even worth it for him to continue on with his dreams in breaking into the music business?
Attending St. Francis College, a psychology student in his second year he already feels the stress of being a musician taking a toll on him and his schooling with constant traveling to photo shoots, recording sessions, and band practices.
Dropping out of college to take on a full-time music career, may be a daunting task for some, especially considering the current financial crisis. But to Damage, college is a “big machine that’s just made to brainwash children into thinking about going into cubicles with no future anyways.” After all punks don’t believe in the 9 to 5.
Damage says that, at this point, his mother is only reason he is staying in college. She supports him and his efforts to become a musician, yet like most parents they do want to see their child get a college diploma.
Maine Damage doesn’t care about the financial aspect he, deeply knows that music is what he wants to be a part of. Yet there is this small doubt that he is internally dealing with when he says, “I don’t want to be that kid who says I’m dropping college for music but at this point, I mean people who usually actually do that, they start fresh,” he says. “Right now if I were too actually drop-out I have a reason too, like I have one of the most busiest moments going on right now, and I’m getting paid, you know what I mean? But then again there is no secure future in this business. That’s why I’m staying in college for now.”
He knows he wants to do this for the love, but part of him knows that he wants to have a secure future, security meaning money. As of now he is still in college.
Chris Nimmons is the keyboardist (for now) and manager for the band. He and Damage attended the same high school and are close friends. Nimmons joined the band at first as only the band’s manager; he saw this as an opportunity to spread his wings with his business savvy ways. He doesn’t really get involved in the composition process, yet his place in the band is just as important. Describing Maine as a musician he says:
“He’s a very skilled lyricist especially compared to most people doing music these days. He seems to detach his personal feelings from his music, but I’m sure if he didn’t, that would make many of the songs all the more spectacular.”
So what is the lasting impact Maine Damage wants to achieve? He wants to make thoughtful and conscious music that he believes the mainstream is lacking at the moment, yet he doesn’t want to go the mainstream route.
“That is basically my main stump, right there trying, to latch on to a song that will really, really, really appeal to the mainstream because I don’t want to go in that direction. But I know I will probably have that one song that really fucks people over, like they are finally speaking my language. They will be forced to listen to it.”
A young man at a crossroads trying to bridge his wants, his desires, his passion with what is realistic, practical, and reasonable.