TARA CHASE as part of the 416 Graffiti Expo in the Queen West and Portland parking lot, Saturday and Sunday (September 18 and 19), at noon. Free. www.ramosent.com. Rating: NNNNN
Last time I saw Tara Chase, she was opening for Beatnuts and Non-Phixion at the Opera House.
While the bitty rapper was kicking her scene-filching verse from DL Incognito's Spit Forever II, two greased-up guys in the front row grabbed Chase by her ankles and tried to yank her into the crowd. "I was like, 'Where the hell is security?'" she laughs quietly over the cell from her Whitby crib, looking back on the 02 show.
She's hoping she won't have to deal with that kind of interference when she performs at 4-ish on Saturday at the free ninth annual 416 Graffiti Expo, the city's definitive hiphop event. Some of our best taggers, spinners, MCs and breakers (including Scam, Starting from Scratch, the Oddities and the DrunkinMonkz) capture Queen and Portland and turn it into a virtual BuaX landscape, pulsing with colour and sound.
But getting towed offstage is not the sort of thing Chase experiences on a regular basis.
"That was pretty much a one-off," she admits. "I mean, some people might get a little overzealous face to face - like, I had a situation last night. I was doing some promo, and a drunken guy just came over and threw his arm around me and slobbered on my cheek. I was, 'Not my face!' I'm a germaphobe."
It's a phobia Chase can justify. See, while spending the last decade or so making a name for herself with the Circle clique, which includes big Can-rap hitters Kardinal Offishall, Saukrates and Choclair, homegirl's been studying slobber on the microscopic level, copping a biotechnology diploma from Sheridan to add to her social sciences diploma.
This year she's back at school furthering her biological know-how, doing her undergrad at U of T. While she plays it down, not many rappers can say they're taking science while droppin' science.
"I think I'm a person who likes a challenge," she says. "That's how I got into hiphop - somebody telling me, 'Oh, you're a female - you can't do it.' Having to prove them wrong is kind of the same approach I take to school. I expressed an interest in going into the sciences, and the guidance counsellor was like, 'No, no no. You can't do that.' And that's a challenge. What? You can't tell me I can't do this. It felt good to prove her wrong."
In Kanye West terms, you could say Tara Chase is overqualified for the rap job, a fact she'll acknowledge with her forthcoming mixtape, The College Graduate. The title's a riff on West's higher-learning dis record, The College Dropout.
Rife with freestyles, parodic bootleg remixes and classic Tara, the CD was produced by Chase in the studio she built herself, and will be available on her own Chase 'n' On label through her under-construction Web site, www. tarachase. com, as of September 27.
"I'm a jokey-type person, so in my music I like to bring that through," she explains. "Like, remember the Dre track that goes 'I just wanna fuck you'? Well, I redid that, but I called it I Just Wanna Rob You. Now, we know I'm not gonna rob nobody, but it's just so funny, because I know other people think it. You know, you'll be talking to a guy, and he's like, 'Oh, I got this car and I got this and that,' and you're like, 'I don't like you. I'm not entertained by you, you irritate me and furthermore, your bragging just makes me wanna rob you,'" she snorts.
The tape will serve as an appetizer for Chase's long-anticipated debut, which is currently in the works. She'd like both releases to give people an understanding of who she is. Finally.
"A lot of people have seen me in the videos or heard me in a song, but they still don't know me. This is my life to a good beat."