Nino Francis discusses his musical influences, artistic development, and his favorite modes of creative expression in conversation with BRU.
Nino has been perfecting his craft since childhood — truly. The singer, rapper, and graphic designer shares that music has been a steady presence in his life since he was young. He “[remembers]…some kids were like freestyle battling on the playground.” Yet for Nino, creating projects was more than just a recess pastime, and his attraction to rap was just beginning to evolve into something more. “This is around the time 50 cent came out and stuff like that,” he tells WBRU, “I had a friend named Aaron…. He kinda put me on to writing gangsta rap. So I was writing gangsta rap in like 4th, 5th grade…and then I just kinda stuck with it.” And we’re grateful he decided to do so. Nino’s music demonstrates an acute awareness of musicality, a skill that can be developed but a talent he was surely born with.
When asked to describe his genre, he can’t, “because on one song I might rap, on another song I might sing, and then on some other songs I might not do any vocals.” His personal style ranges as much as those from some of his favorite artists, from Jay-Z to Bon Iver. The unique admiration he has for such a wide array of artists is perhaps how Nino’s artistic abilities are so varied. His musical expression wasn’t always this diverse, though. He’s evolved since rapping with his friends and freestyle battling with other classmates at recess. It’s certainly an unconventional blend of interests, and this unique taste gives Nino his edge. “I definitely started out as, like, strictly hip hop. And then MTV would start playing music videos before I went to school, so that’s when they started playing like Yellowcard or Hoobastank or Linkin Park and stuff like that and that got me into venturing into other things. But then at the same time I’m Dominican, so I grew up listening to a lot of Latina music and bachata and meringue, and all of that. So it was cool to have like multiple worlds to tap into.” His own music, history and tastes are a unique blend that always leave his audiences at the edge of their seat, waiting with bated breath to see what he’ll do next.
Nino’s influences don’t stop there, however. He seeks inspiration constantly, from friends, family, other famous musicians. He’s always ready to learn and credits many of his fellow Providence talents with his progress. “I have an incredible group of people around me,” he says, referencing best friend and DJ, Beato, as well as mentors like J, Sabrina, and Cam. He doesn’t just retain the good vibes and knowledge that come his way, though. He’s a wealth of information, and he’s always willing to share the skills and tricks he’s picked up along the way.
Francis’s multi-talented nature is apparent outside of his musical abilities as well. His other main creative outlet is graphic design. In fact, Nino’s designed all of his own album covers. “I was a sophomore in high school when I put out my first mixtape. And at that time it’s like, oh you need a cover, and I didn’t know who to go to for a cover because I was a sophomore in high school. So I downloaded Photoshop.” What started out as necessity evolved into a second passion. Nino designed fellow Providence artist Whytri’s cover for his last album, A Bad Porno. The cover was one of Nino’s favorite projects, which means a lot since the artist has three EPs and several singles to his name. His favorite personal project was his last EP, There’s No Love After Sunset, which laments love, loss, and the difficulty of navigating relationships — platonic and romantic alike.
The vibe of this album, particularly songs like “Hplss” and “Rmntc,” calls to mind other artists, like Jaden Smith on SYRE. He discusses his favorite themes in art and the ways they creep out in his own work. “I like repetition. There’s repetition in life, and in a lot of my covers, it’s like the repetition of text is like putting the word — the feeling — of what the title is into your head. Usually the way things get into your head is through repetition.”
His path to actualization was not cut and dried, though, and he expresses the hills and valleys of trying to find success through his brand, Joy of Fruition.”Fruition means the point at which an idea or a project is realized,” he shares, “and it’s really just focused on planting your seeds. Growing something you believe in.” He doesn’t commit to ideas he doesn’t believe in. It’s calling attention to constant growth, self-actualized growth. It’s Nino in a nutshell: a driven artist who is always trying to improve, always willing to learn, and always creating in a way entirely genuine to himself. He plants his seeds in his art and those around him, growing his community and pushing everyone forward.
His communal support is evident here. His love for Providence runs deep in his blood. “I’ve lived in Providence my entire life, and I think that we’re almost like in a Renaissance time in which people are really just recreating and rebuilding the structure of what the music scene is here.” Nino is stoked to be part of the development. He’s a true supporter if there ever was one, connecting with other artists in natural, intentional ways whenever he can. He just released his most recent collaboration, “Who is U” with Latrelle James. How did this collaboration come to be? “I think he came and played a show that I went to, and I really liked what he did.” Their bond was as simple as that; they gelled, and a song was born.
He’s a team player and a successful individual artist, a line incredibly difficult to walk even for those most proficient in the field. Most of all, he’s proud. “That’s really how I feel about being from Prov, I’m proud. I’m proud. I’m proud to be from Providence.” And it’s clear to see why. Nino has found himself in the music scene here; it’s hard to find a person who’s never heard of Nino and hasn’t worked with him to some degree. “There’s no place like home.” And for Nino, that means doing what he can and succeeding right here.