Published Jun 01, 2012While the profile of Canadian hip-hop artists has never been higher thanks to the success of artists like Drake and producers like Boi-1da, influential hip-hop artists from this country have been paving the way for over 20 years. Michie Mee is definitely one of those pioneers. She was among the first Canadian hip-hop artists to be signed to a U.S. label and to gain respect south of the border. Mee distinguished herself with her flow that mixed Jamaican dancehall and New York style lyrical pugilism, a consciously hybrid style that yielded the 1991's Jamaican Funk: Canadian Style album. Michie Mee has gone on to other media fields becoming a film and television actress and radio host but she is still best known for her ongoing recording career. She was recently recognized by the Stylus Awards, which annually gives out awards to DJs, producers and promoters in Canada's DJ and club scene, as a Hall of Fame recipient.
You are going to be receiving the Hall of Fame award. So how did you feel when you found out that's what they wanted to do?
[David "Click" Cox, stylus awards organizer] was very casual about it, speaking about it. It just came out. I was like "Excuse me?" 'Cause I always like to support the Stylus Awards, y'know, get some tickets and getting drink tickets. I was waiting for an order of operation when I saw them induct Maestro [Fresh Wes]. I was happy there were actually having MCs involved. Because this looks like this is going to be the biggest awards show we have celebrating urban music in Canada as we've tried many awards before. But when I was next? I was like, "Cool." 'Cause you never know what direction they were going in. You don't have to go from artist to artist. You could have gone in any other... so I was very happy. It surprised me because I didn't expect it this year.
So why wouldn't you expect it given that Maestro had already won it?
'Cause it was new. It was new. They could have given it to best promoter. I didn't look it like "Ooh Maestro got it, maybe I'll get it next year." No. I look at it as something new. It's DJ-oriented, so for once it caught me off. Yeah, 'cause I didn't know what direction they were going to do that's the difference in this one. [Click] just played it off. He was casual, you would have never thought.... He didn't even give a hint. It was just a casual convo and he said it to me. I dropped a tear. I was overwhelmed. I thought he was going to ask me to present. And then he hit me with like, "Nah you're next. That's the way we're doing it." Oh, wicked!
You've been linked to DJs your whole career. What DJs were important to your development as an artist?
Definitely [hip-hop college radio pioneer] Ron Nelson. I wasn't mainstream radio, I was mainly college radio. At the time Ron Nelson was kind of it, [as well as] CIUT [and] DJs like DJ Power, DJ Ron Nelson, DTS, LA Luv and sound crews like Sunshine sound crew, TKO. And it was live. "Jamaican Funk" was the only song I had in a DJ pool. This is why this award took me off [guard]. Let me just round it up. Because I've never been platinum, I've never won a Juno. I have never been flown into the DJ pocket to win, so mine is straight off of love from the street. So you know I did the other stuff. You're asking me connecting it to DJs and I'm like "I'm going to have to go so old school on you, [those aren't] my only releases." I think "Slave" was my next radio friendly [track after 1991's "Jamaican Funk" single]. And they're like ten or 11 years apart. So I make college radio DJs happy and when Flow [93.5 in Toronto] went on the air, after Bob Marley's "One Love.," the next song they played was [my song] "Slave." Those kinds of milestones weren't DJ specific, they were radio specific. So anywhere that I've got in has been great.
You did begin with sound systems though, right? Can you talk a little bit about sound systems? I know you are talking about radio, but can you talk about those live performances?
It's still Sunshine Sound crew and Ron Nelson. Without records we still had to perform it live and even when we had a record not necessarily all the DJs had them. I remember I'd have to do tracks like "On This Mic," and "Elements of Style" which were my records from college radio from Ron Nelson and do them live. Hip-hop met house music at the Concert Hall was one of the events before [CKLN "Power Move" host] DJ X started Live at the Barbeque. Ron Nelson had the battles. They were genres coming together even before the battles. So those were the two main platforms that led to DJ X taking over college radio and me performing with that.
Another reason why you were getting this award is that you honed your style working with these crews not only because you were a pioneering artist but also because of your unique style. Can you talk about how you developed your style?
Because I grew up in a dancehall environment in terms of hanging out. But I rapped, so I would go around the dancehall scene and they'd be like "Yo, that's the funky girl." It stuck, but that element it just came out naturally. And [Beat Factory head] Ivan [Berry] would always say to me "You need to do that to show them you're doing something different" and Ron Nelson said, "It's your secret weapon." And then I see him on TV telling people it's my secret weapon and I'm like "It's not a secret anymore if I keep doing it." [Laughs] And it became who I was. Because when you're young, you're just being. I didn't know at 15 I was so different, but I knew I was different because I was doing what I know they weren't doing. But I knew where it came from; the energy of the streets, the blocko. Sunshine [Sound Crew] had all the blockos. My dad was a big promoter in Jamaica where I would go to stage shows and I came to Canada to look for [the same] outside vibe here. That's what I gravitated to. And then hip-hop. Hip-hop came out, it was the timing, my age and the era. I just happened to be right on time and my attitude and energy coming through Canada with the dancehall with the underground scene it was either hip-hop or the dancehall. When I got on the hip-hop mic, the dancehall just came out. And definitely in the clothes.