Rapper Miss Ko sings about her experiences

Miss Ko is known for her ability to rap in English and Mandarin.
Miss Ko is known for her ability to rap in English and Mandarin.PHOTO: ESPLANADE

Taiwanese-American rapper-songwriter Miss Ko, who released a music video about domestic violence, wants people to be more aware of the issue

8Q

Do not mess with Miss Ko. The 32-year-old Taiwanese-American rapper-songwriter is known for speaking her mind through her songs.

In 2015, she released a music video speaking against domestic violence. In another song, she rebutted those who criticised her Chinese-language abilities.

Once, she also wrote a song about eating some "horrible" pizza and wanting to slap the chef.

Next month, she will perform in Singapore for the first time as part of this year's Huayi - Chinese Festival of Arts.

Speaking on the phone from Taiwan, where she is based, she told The Straits Times that music is her form of expression and that she ignores the haters.

The daughter of a computer specialist father and fashion designer mother grew up in Queens, New York, and was exposed to hip-hop music at a very young age.

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American singer-songwriter Lauryn Hill and American rapper Tupac Shakur are among her music influences.

In high school, the only child rhymed words from her textbook, turning them into songs to remember them.

In 2012, she released her debut album Knock Out, which was critically acclaimed. It won her the Best New Artist award at the Golden Melody Awards, considered to be the Grammys of Taiwan.

One of her hit songs, Ready, Set, Drunk, has amassed more than 1.5 million views on YouTube.

 

Known for her ability to rap in English and Mandarin, Miss Ko has performed at music festivals such as the CMJ Music Marathon in New York and Glastonbury Festival and has collaborated with music bigwigs such as MC HotDog, Khalil Fong, Crowd Lu and A-Mei.

 

Her latest album, Queen Of Queens, was released in 2016. It got her nominated for Best Female Mandarin Vocalist at the Golden Melody Awards last year.

Miss Ko, whose real name is Christine Ko, is single.

1 How do you feel about making your Singapore debut?

I'm excited because my aunt is there. I have been to Singapore once six years ago and I appreciate new experiences.

2 Do you think there is an audience in Singaporeans for rap music?

I hope that they will take to it because I think being open to new things helps you to understand the world better.

I think being obedient has its place, but going against the grain and standing out is also something.

If you just follow the mould, then you can be like everyone else, but who is going to be that one person who comes out and changes things?

3 What do you hope to achieve through your music?

I used music as an outlet to escape a lot of stuff that I was going through as a kid. My parents would fight a lot and I was under a lot of pressure. Music gave me confidence and strength that I don't think I can get anywhere else. The moment the music is on, I feel invincible. I can do anything.

So I feel my duty is to give that to other people. I hope that through my music, other people can gain confidence and this energy that helps them get through the day.

4 How was it like working with Fong and Lu?

I love both of them. Khalil's music was something I listened to when I first came to Taiwan and it resonated with me.

And Crowd is really good on the guitar, super-talented. I can sing him a note and he will know exactly what to do with it. I love working with talented people who are naturally good at what they do.

5 Do you think your music has an activist message?

Domestic violence is something a lot of people have experienced, but not too many people recognise it as something that is unhealthy and toxic.

I want people to be aware and speak up. I hope people take action because domestic violence is not talked about enough.

6 How did you pick up Chinese and become comfortable rapping in it?

I grew up speaking English. I came to Taiwan in 2010 to learn Chinese. Before that, I could probably say only simple words like "table" and "chair". Writing (songs) was a way to learn Chinese. It is always nice to expand your vocabulary and understand the language, especially if it is your parents' language.

In the past, I didn't really know how to use the language. Now I understand myself more, who I am and my role in society.

7 Some netizens say your music has many Western influences. Are there also Asian influences?

I can't say there is too much Asian influence because I didn't grow up listening to any Asian music. Not at all.

But now that I listen to it more and more, I think a lot of things - like the erhu - can be incorporated into my music.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

After the performance, I want the audience to remember the feeling that theyentered a different realm. And I want them to enjoy every single word.

I would hope that when they finish hearing it, they at least remember some songs and can sing them.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2018, with the headline 'Making a difference with rap'. Print Edition | Subscribe