BEVERLY — Michael Januario is a bit bleary-eyed as he sits in Atomic Cafe, checking his emails while waiting for a reporter to arrive. He just finished feeding breakfast to his “beautiful” 20-month-old daughter, Makaria, and he isn’t quite awake yet.
He’s also a bit jet-lagged. It’s been a week since Januario, better known to hip-hop fans as M-Dot, returned from a 28-day/10-country tour of Europe that included a featured performing spot in an airline hangar before 80,000 music fans at Hip Hop Kemp, a festival in the Czech Republic.
“It’s the Woodstock of hip-hop,” said Januario, who was born in Revere and grew up in Lynn, in the Ward 1 neighborhood behind Union Hospital. “I have a large following in Europe, and have toured there eight times.”
Januario, 35, graduated from Northeast Metro Tech High School in Wakefield, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams and Fitchburg State University. His music focus took root at MCLA.
“There was a portable closet in our college apartment, and inside it we set up a mic, recording equipment … and we were off and running. It all started in that closet.”
It wasn’t long before M-Dot starting posting original music online, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. Mixtapes and albums were released. Tours of Europe and sold-out gigs soon followed.
“I make music I enjoy and believe in. People have told me they feel a connection with it,” he said. “Why put on a facade? I wanted to do it my way. It’s a long road, but I’m doing it the way one should want to do it.”
Last year, his album “egO anD The eneMy” finished number one in sales at UGHH, the biggest outlet for underground hip-hop. The Boston Herald named it as one of 2017’s best releases. In the past, he’s worked with noted producer Pete Rock, Wu Tang, MC Method Man, and other heavyweights. His song “True Lies” was played on the NBC drama, “The Blacklist,” and he earned much positive press and praise from fans for his innovative 360-degree “Give it to Me” video.
Current project “KEMPilation” was just released to coincide with the Czech tour. He hopes to release new music in the spring, a follow-up to “egO…” On Sept. 16 he will perform at the Boston Freedom Rally, affectionately called Hempfest, a three-day party on Boston Common that draws some 100,000 visitors annually.
“Me and my EMS crew work incredibly hard. We rehearsed for four months, including choreography, to prepare for the Czech tour,” he said. M-Dot’s crew includes Rev (MC and online promoter, friend since childhood, college roommate), Mayhem (MC, friend since childhood, college roommate), Beverly resident Desco (MC, hype man), Kore (MC/singer/producer, friend since childhood, college roommate), Benefit (MC), Undu (MC), DJ Workshard (label partner) and Quiz (Berklee-trained engineer).
Januario credits his parents, John and Diane, and sister Alicia, for his strong work ethic. Support from his entire family, especially longtime girlfriend Nicole Gargano, is constant.
Every Wednesday, for the entire day, this rapper becomes Mr. Mom, taking care of baby Makaria, 11-year-old John Michael, and 6-year-old daughter Kadence, giving Nicole, her mom and his mom, who also alternate caring for the kids, a break.
“Europe was a work trip for me. I’m not over there spending money or misbehaving. I have three kids at home. It’s because of the relationships I have that I’m able to do this. I have a great, great relationship with my girl Nicole. We’ve been together for six years. She’s the reason I can do this. I’m the luckiest guy in the world. Whether I’m on the road or not, my focus is always my family and providing for them.”
Of course, like most musicians, Januario has a day job with a flexible schedule, serving as a courier in Boston. Delivering “lots of envelopes” to major corporations and the Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics is a thrill for this sports fan and former college basketball player.
“I’m a regular kid from Lynn. I don’t have any fancy management. We do it all ourselves,” he said. That includes booking the recent European tour and making travel arrangements.
“It’s important to focus on what you’re doing and not worry about everyone else. You worry about making the best music you can, and not worry about what others are doing. Success trumps everything, pun not intended.
“The underdog can win with perseverance. Never making excuses. Everything we have crafted has been from the ground up. And what’s most rewarding, is that I didn’t chase a gimmick. I want people to know substance still matters. Despite the influx of mumble nonsense-rap I hope I can bring awareness that conscious music and thought-provoking content will forever be more fulfilling in the end. And that’s what I stand for. Having lyrics that evoke passion and display real life tribulations. Lyrics still matter. … Righteous underdogs are winning, brother. And we are living proof.”
For music, videos and more, go to mdotboston.com. Upcoming shows include Sept. 7 in Salem at Opus w/ Big Shug (Gangstarr); and Sept. 16, Hempfest, on Boston Common.