MASIA ONE with MICHEE MEE , JULLY BLACK and others as part of the HONEY JAM TALENT SHOWCASE and PHEMPHAT NINTH ANNIVERSARY PARTY at the Phoenix, Sunday (August 15). $15. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
In a memorable Seinfeld episode, George tells Jerry that most successful relationships begin with a great meeting story. By that theory, the union of Masia One and hiphop will probably last forever.
"I was in this bootleg market in Singapore - my mother was buying glasses frames," she starts excitedly between sips of tea at the Rivoli. "I was in grade 2, and I'd just gotten Chinese New Year money from my grandmother. So I'm running around and I find a tape store, and I pick up this tape with this scope on it. I flipped it to the back and there was this guy with a clock around his neck, and I'm, like, 'Aw, cool! That's like a cartoon character!' I bought it cuz I thought it was a kids' tape."
Homeboy with the clock wasn't exactly Raffi. The tape in question was Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, which, at the time, was ghetto-blasting through the Western world with Chuck D and Flavor Flav's venomous social politickin' over a hardcore collage of sound.
Everything fell into place after Masia and her fam moved to Vancouver shortly thereafter and hiphop culture became a serious part of her life.
Masia came to Toronto to study at U of T in 1996, and on the way to graduating with an honours degree in architecture she found her niche in the city's hiphop community with the aid of roommate-by-sheer-coincidence Jesse Ohtake of thecyberkrib.com. Ohtake ended up tossing her on the bill of an all-female rap showcase called I Used To Love H.E.R.
"I was going to do it as a one-off thing, but I got an amazing response, so it's just been that direction ever since," she says. That direction has included non-stop performances with the ill live backing of Afro-rock 12-piece Ultra Magnus, and working six jobs concurrently to fund, found and run her own label/promotional arm, M1 Group (www.masiaone.com), through which she pushes her dope debut album, Mississauga.
The album features bold beats ranging in style from breezy funk to electro-pop, all carrying Masia's self-assured flows and unique, often witty rhyme technique.
The album was mostly produced by Yoroku Saki, but her buddy Jesse F. Keeler of Death from Above 1979 did the dirty track The Hazing and will remix it with Sebastien Grainger of his group for her next single and video - for which she was easily granted VideoFACT funding after the runaway success of her dead-sick second video for Split Second Time, which was beating Jay-Z on Much's Rapcity countdown for a while.
Sadly, not every head got the irony of that video, which featured nearly every Asian stereotype Masia and director Matt Burke could muster.
"I got really tired of seeing all the clichés of Asians in the mainstream. Whenever you see an Asian, it's gonna be kung-fu fighting, and the girls are submissive, like tea-pouring schoolgirls," she explains.
"But I got all these kids writing me hate mail. I've gotten, 'Who's this Asian bitch giving a bad name to Asian females - you'd make a better porn star.' Of course, I'd probably be giving a worse name to Asian females if I did decide to be a porn star," she laughs.
"But my favourite comment is 'Oh, Masia's biting Missy Elliott cuz she's trying to be so Asian in her video.' It's like, 'OK, I'll try my best not to be so Asian next time. '"