Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997

Masia One

Masia One
Photo by Jason Lewis

Masia is an artist who transcends boundaries. In less than ten years, she has established herself as a musical pioneer, visual artist, businesswoman, and tastemaker. Her work blurs cultural expectations,
challenges traditional gender norms and continues to gain respect through its seamless blending of political awareness, emcee skill and top-notch sound.

Masia’s relationship with hip-hop is a storied one, going all the way back to a Singapore wet market where, at age eight, she purchased a bootleg copy of the Public Enemy album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Down. Moved by the political spirit present in the tracks, she immediately began to school herself on the genre, pouring over books about urban activists like Huey Newton and Malcolm X and scribbling rhymes in a notebook she kept hidden from her parents. This newfound awareness followed her across the ocean to Vancouver, Canada, where she continued to educate herself on the plight of the oppressed while gaining a reputation as a talented graffiti artist and b-girl.

Still, it was not until she completed a degree in Architecture at the University of Toronto that Masia was final given the opportunity to embrace her true calling. Stepping in as a last minute replacement at an all-female hip-hop showcase, she made waves with a stunning set that earned her the attention of Much Vibe and instantly launched her fast-paced life as an in-demand emcee.

In 2003, she released the well-received MISSISSAUGA, an impressive collection of tracks that showcased her butter smooth flow and international hip-hop sound, leading to a historic nomination as the first female emcee ever up for a Much Music Video Award (Rap).

Her sophomore release LP PULAU (2008) saw the artist continuing to evolve and sharpen her skills as a songwriter, with the collection’s genre-busting sound reflecting inspiration drawn from touring through North America and the Far East and from sharing the stage with acts like The Roots, Floetry, Mos Def, DJ Neil Armstrong and Ron Sexsmith. The album met with huge success, reaching number one on Canadian College Radio Charts, and charting on both CBC Radio 3 and South East Asian Radio.

Six music videos, international bookings and countless media appearances later, Masia found herself courted by Warner Chapel Swedan and Grammy-winning Aftermath producer Che Vicious (Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, 50 Cent) to work on an album together. Set for release this spring, BOOTLEG CULTURE features collaborations with artists such as Wutang’s The RZA and Thunderheist’s Isis, and furthers the artist’s commitment to social activism, with the video for lead single “Warriors Tongue” shot for and by artists living in a economically unstable section of the Philippines.

Not content to release just one record in 2012, Masia is also currently working on a live band album at Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong Studio with Dubtonic Kru in Kingston, Jamaica. A dream project for a longstanding fan of reggae, the album will also drop in March 2012, and is yet another example of the artist’s expansive musical palette.

Beyond her life as an emcee, Masia has been the recipient of the Chinese Canadian National Council Pioneer Award, founded the MERDEKA Group, and has provided consultation and cultural marketing advice to a number of organizations (including Aritzia, Nike, Planet Brooklyn Academy, Red Bull, and Athlete's World). She is even responsible for designing the fan merchandise for the Ethiopian Olympic Team! She is heavily invested in promoting arts education, anti-bullying and female
empowerment, and has run workshops for 50,000 students in Canada, as well as entrepreneurship workshops in the United Kingdom, Jamaica, and Malaysia.

With an extensive body of work and a stable of producers that spans the globe, there can be no doubt that Masia has established herself as the “prom queen” of the international urban music scene. Her willingness to challenge convention, her thirst for experimentation and her dedication to a universal sound will continue to excite and inspire fans from across the globe. Look for BOOTLEG CULTURE and the TUFF GONG RECORD this spring.

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