Singapore based Canadian, Masia One (MAS1A), is a rapper with conviction. After graduating with an honours BA in Architecture from the University of Toronto, Masia leapt to her new found calling and decided to pursue a career in music. From then onwards, Masia has worked with the likes of Pharrell, John Frusciante, and has performed in over twenty countries.
Now, Masia offers up her new album Far East Empress, a collection of songs that span tropical pop, dancehall, reggae and hip-hop. LOCK spoke to the ‘Far East Empress’ about lead single ‘Oh Na Na!’ and the new album.
The lead single from the album, Oh Na Na, is about a Gyalis (a playboy) , is there a specific situation that made you want to write this track?
Yes, living in Jamaica on and off for five years I used to watch tourists come and go off the island. Women from “foreign” countries would fall in love with the Jamaican gyalis all the time because of their island spirit – having an innate freedom, open to complimenting a woman, positive outlook and funny. I realised that a lot of what attracted a woman to a gyalis had more to do with her own self confidence and how much she enjoyed the life she was living. A gyalis becomes an escape into a romance novel.
How did you feel releasing this as a follow-up to your summer hit ‘Time Wastin”?
I felt really good – when I bump into my friends they are all humming the hook of Oh Na Na! (that’s when you know you’ve written a great chorus). Time Wastin’ was my loud track to remind people that I’m still a female emcee and back on the scene representing the Empresses from Southeast Asia. I knew it was not a commercial song, but I created a music video alongside this debut to provoke standards here in Asia where often women are depicted as gentle fair maidens.
I wanted to represent all body shapes, cultures and showcase queens that were running their own business, owning their craft or making a statement in the world as Singaporean women. I wanted to also introduce my culture clash but depicting MahJong (which reminds me of dominoes) with Dancehall dance – two worlds colliding to create new ideas and sounds.
How does the sound of this release reflect on the rest of the album?
The album is a mix of Hiphop, Dancehall and Reggae. I think both songs showcase the “bashment” vibes where Time Wastin’ is more lyrical and Oh Na Na! tells a story with a tropical feel throughout. Both songs remind people to be brave, own their identity and be proud of who you are. I just want to make music that makes people feel brave.
Do you have a vision for how Oh Na Na! will be performed live?
Oh Na Na! I would love to have male and female dancehall dancers showing through their routine, this interaction between a gyalis (playboy) and a woman to illustrate the story. The setting should have hand painted signs in bright colours, digitally projected palm trees and cocktails served to the audience. At the hook, a full scale dancehall flashmob appears and rocks out with people from all walks of life duhtty wining and bouncing.
Is there another track you’re especially looking forward to people hearing from your album?
I would say Kampong Boogie for the Hiphop heads – I love working with really talented artists that haven’t necessarily been “discovered” by the public. The writing is more raw, honest and authentic to their experience of where they came from. In this case the song features KC of Malaysia’s Lawalah Familia (a part of Kuala Lumpur’s growing Hiphop culture) and KJah from the Philippines, known for his participation in “Flip Top” emcee battles. (Rap battles that would bring out 20,000 or more people in the Manilla).
For the Reggae heads, I’m looking forward to hearing what people think about Fyah and Selah. I think the positive message of Reggae is an important one for Asia as population and commerce grows. Actually I think it’s an important message for the whole world right now – calm down, take time for yourself and each other, and live your life with purpose and through love.
Does the album have an overarching concept?
When I was recording it, I didn’t really plan it with an overarching concept. I was just earnestly making music as a girl born Singaporean, grown up Canadian, worked American and inspired by Jamaica. In spite of many successes as an artist in North American, when I was thrown back into the environment of Asia, I had to humble myself and establish my name from the ground up again. This album just shows the journey of creating new songs, and finding my voice in the place of my birth.
I’ve been getting some reviews coming back now where people told me they liked the overall concept and message. When I asked them what that was, I was told “That money isn’t the end all, and we must be royal from the inside and own our greatness.” I agree…so let’s roll with that.
Is there a message that you want people to take away from your music?
Seek the truth and balance the sorrow, strength today is wisdom for tomorrow, til we all can find a better way. – Selah
Do you have any big plans to tour the album?
If I’m going to uphold the title of Far East Empress, then I am going to so see my people one island at a time. We plan to tour all of South East Asia starting in Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia then back to Singapore. We are currently in talks to set up a European tour by Summer 2019 to participate in the amazing Reggae and Music festivals. I can’t wait! My island is known as the little Red Dot, but we’ve been known to do big things worldwide.
Far East Empress is out now. Watch the lyric video for Oh Na Na! below.
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