Uncle Tino’s creative evolution is in full swing. The 26-year-old Houston native has been writing and releasing music since he was 15, originally under the stage name MC i Ckan Ryme. While his early releases displayed an undeniable lyrical gift and a penchant for boom bap freestyles, his recent singles paint a funkier, more musically refined picture—one which flexes his vocal talents and creative use of sound.
The UH grad with a background in media production and beverage management has released three singles in anticipation of his upcoming concept album, Colorfool. The tracks, aptly named “Blue,” “Green,” and “Red,” are as distinct as they are captivating. We spoke with Uncle Tino about the upcoming album, its colorful meaning and his experience as a trans man in hip hop.
One of the most recognizable elements of your music these days is your talkbox. How long have you been playing it and what came first, writing rhymes or playing instruments?
I’ve been playing it for a few years now! I actually started writing when I was about 13 and decided I wanted to rap seriously at 14, 15. I started playing guitar when I was 11, drums as well, but I’m not disciplined or trained at any instrument, lol. I play by ear and just have fun with what I can learn. I also knew I could sing when I was super young, but was too shy up until my late teens.
The concept of colors seems to be the obvious theme of the Colorfool project. Can you elaborate on what that means and what each color-specific single represents?
The first song we ever completed off the album was actually meant for another project, produced by my best friend and head producer of Colorfool. It was “Blue,” then after we recorded it, he sent me another song titled “Green.” Then I wrote that, and thought why don’t we just finish with a bunch of other colors? And a concept was born.
Your music is extremely distinct from the typical Houston sound, both in terms of the city's classic low and slow vibe as well as its Latinx rap scene. What are some of the musical influences that have shaped your particular sound?
First off, thank you! I actually have a ton of influences. That of Gorillaz, Daft Punk, Missy Elliot, Mac Miller, Toro Y Moi, My Chemical Romance, Deftones, Anderson .Paak, George Clinton, NB Ridaz, The Cool Kids, Wu-Tang, Big L, De La Soul, Gang Starr. Tons of music. Hard to name just one or even top five.
It will come as no surprise to you that there aren't many trans-artists or allies in hip hop, which has a history of both trans- and homophobia since its origin. Has that reality impacted your career in any way, and how does being a trans man inform and shape your own identity within the industry?
I mean, shit, if it’s had any crippling impact on the outside, I haven’t noticed. I don’t let what others have to say about who I am affect me negatively. I’m damned talented no matter what. I love what I do. I’m trying to set a blueprint for kids out there just like me, who want to make it somewhere that might not be welcoming and hold the door open for them to join. In this day and age, I feel like people are opening up to getting educated on the topic, but if I gotta push harder or take any transphobic hits I will (and I HAVE). I got pretty thick skin. Most of the time people are just intimidated or jealous—neither of which concern me. I’m not scared to be myself, there’s no point in it.
Following up on the previous question, you seem to have established a firm place for yourself within Houston's Latinx rap community. What does it mean for peers like Bo Bundy, TrillWavy, and others to embrace you as a key member of the community?
Being respected for my talent and identity is key for sure. [It] just means there’s a solid foundation to move up and forward not only in the industry but as humans.