Big men on campus
Popularity doesn’t always measure success. Take Reno-based hip-hoppers Canto I (pronounced Canto-Eye). As of late April on their MySpace page, the duo’s most-played song, “The Shining,” tallied around 650 plays. Their next most-played song tallied less than 200.
They say that what matters now is that they make good music. Fans will come later.
That music is taking the duo leaps and bounds. Originally from Las Vegas, Canto I consists of brothers Danny and Joey Fiorentini. For more than five years, the two worked individually as Effect and Joe Fury, each with a distinct sound, putting out a combined five albums and more than 100 songs to little success. It wasn’t until last winter, when MTV’s collegiate subsidiary MTVu announced its “Best Music on Campus” contest that the Fiorentinis decided to try something new.
“When we decided to enter the contest, we wanted to go at it with a fresh approach,” says Danny, his elbows planted on the edge of a table in Fritz’s Bar and Grill.
Joey, only two years younger at age 20, interjects. “Instead of entering the contest as opponents, we decided to work as one,” he says.
So they created Canto I in December. Shortly after entering BMOC, they turned heads by being selected as a top-five finalist by a slew of voters on the MTVu Web site. Although they didn’t win, their music was good enough to receive an invite to perform on MTV’s annual Campus Invasion Tour. MTV also offered Canto I a track on the Campus Invasion Tour 2007 compilation album. The two young rappers’ single will appear alongside those of big-name rappers, such as Fabolous and Rick Ross.
Danny has difficulty explaining how thrilled he is about the invitation. “It’s ridiculous,” he says simply.
Joey jumps in. “There’s no point to try to explain how excited we are,” he says grinning back at his brother.
Interaction between the young rappers bears a striking resemblance to their musical style. The brothers appear as mere opposites, struggling musicians individually, miraculously functional together.
At the table, they wear baggy pants and T-shirts, but Danny wears black, Joey white. Danny wears a baseball cap; Joey’s head is shaved. They finish each other’s sentences, argue and fine-tune convictions via soundless words relayed through facial expressions that only those who know each other well can understand.”
“We want our songs to sound exactly the way they do on the album,” Joey says.
“And when we have a good stage presence along with a good sound, well, that’s the best anyone could ask for at a show,” says Danny.
On their fittingly double-titled album, Entry Level/Elements, their vocal exchange is compatible as pen and paper. The duo’s style is a rapped story told back and forth in quick intervals between Joey’s low, hollow but clever rhymes and Danny’s high, crisp, Eminem-like clarity over distinctive beats. The instrumentals are faintly muffled, like sounds from an old record player, resembling a bit of jazz, only consistent, signing with classic hip-hop repetitiveness and a bruising baseline.
Their MTVu show will be only their fourth time performing together, Danny says, “We have 20 minutes to perform our songs as perfectly as we can,” he says.
“We’ll be nervous, of course,” adds Joey. “But, like always, as soon as our beat drops, we’ll be right at home.”