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Sun, Aug 30, 2009
The New Paper
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I don’t want my kids asking: ‘Why is Mummy naked on a car?’
by Germaine Lim

IT SOUNDS like easy money: Perform onstage scantily clad and get a fat paycheck.

But Maysian Lim, better known as rapper Masia One, would rather not.

The 30-year-old Singapore-born artiste won’t include sexually-explicit lyrics in her songs either.

In an e-mail interview with The New Paper, Toronto-based Masia said: “It was difficult to turn down that much money for something that was so easy to do. At the end of the day, when I have kids, I don’t want them asking, ‘Mummy, why are you naked on the hood of a car?’

“Besides, hip-hop needs more female perspectives so the guys don’t have all the fun.” Masia, who performed in Singapore last July, will be spinning at Clarke Quay’s Forbidden City at 10pm tonight.

The gig, which will also feature electronic DJ Paul T and hip-hop artiste Celsius 7, is part of the Hennessy Artistry music event. Admission is $20 per person and includes a glass of Hennessy VSOP. Recognition It seems integrity has paid off for Masia.

Grammy Award-winning producer Che Vicious has signed her on to his record label Kops & Robbers and is producing her third album. Vicious is rap mogul Dr Dre’s right-hand man and has worked with prominent US artistes like Lauryn Hill, Aretha Franklin, 50 Cent and The Game.

Pharrell Williams of Grammy-winning hip-hop duo N.E.R.D has also “heard some of my tracks and was really enjoying the West Indian flavour to the music”, said Masia, who moved to Vancouver with her parents when she was 8.

Before she caught the attention of rap bigwigs, Masia was already making waves in Toronto.

Split Second Time (2003) was nominated for Canada’s MuchMusic Video Awards’ Best Rap Video, making her the first Asian female independent artiste to contend in that category.

Her album Pulau (2008), released under her own company, Merdeka Group, was No. 2 on Canada’s CBC Radio 3’s music chart.

No mean feat for a girl who bought her first hip-hop record, a bootleg copy of Public Enemy’s second album, It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back (1988), with her hongbao in Bedok.

Between university classes, Masia held five jobs to produce her debut album, Mississauga (2003).

She holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture (with honours) from the University of Toronto, and she’s also contemplating a law degree.

Her parents, who still live in Singapore, were initially concerned about her going into music.
But they changed their mind over time.

Masia said: “(My parents) eventually saw that I was an entrepreneur, running my own business, bringing together a community of people... They are now very supportive of what I do, though I’m sure my mum still wishes I was a polite banker.”

Being Asian and female in an industry which is male-dominated and has roots in African-American and Hispanic culture has not helped.

But a tenacious Masia, who cites reggae musicians Peter Tosh and Bob Marley as her music heroes, refuses to cave in.

She said: “I have my dad’s work ethic and my mama’s eloquence. Buay si kai (Hokkien for unrelenting) – that’s me.”

Woman on a mission

Armed with her hard-earned street cred, the tough cookie wants to change the public’s preceptions of the rap community and Singapore, even if it is through unorthodox methods.

Netizens flamed her for perpetuating Asian stereotypes – gongfu fighting, submissive Chinese tea-pouring girls and the Japanese school-girl look – in her music video Split Second Time (2003).

She said: “For every hate e-mail I received, I would get correspondence from young women... throughout Canada and the US letting me know that they were victimised in their schools every day for being the only Asian kid...

“Watching my video made them realise that anything was possible and they were allowed to be whomever they dreamed. This means more than any insult or hate mail.

“(Regardless of positive or negative comments) I had gotten people in Canada and America to discuss some of the issues around Asian and female stereotypes. I had achieved my goal.”

The proud native, who plans to spend more time in Singapore in future, wants the world to know that our little island is more than just about cleanliness, gum-chewing prohibitions and caning.

Masia, who is looking forward to “my first plate of chicken rice in years” has even based the logo of Merdeka Group on the image of the Merlion.

“I want to be the Manny Pacquiao (the first Filipino and Asian boxer to have won five world titles in five different weight divisions) of rap.”

S’pore-born rapper is going places despite not taking easy road to success I don’t want my kids asking: ‘Why is Mummy naked on a car?’

This article was first published in The New Paper

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