hun­gry pea

Put a pin on the map for Ulaan­bataar: MRS M rep­re­sents the un­ex­pected rise of hip-hop in Mon­go­lia, writes SEAN DINSMORE

#Legend - - HIGHLIGHTS -

’Tis the sea­son: try the most sought-af­ter, high-value white truf­fles from Alba

THE STORY OF Mon­go­lian singer/rap­per Mrs M is ac­tu­ally a tale of a coun­try com­ing into its own. Hail­ing from the cap­i­tal city, Ulaan­baatar, she has cap­ti­vated an au­di­ence that’s grow­ing up at light­ning speed, ur­ban­is­ing and re­ject­ing its for­mer Soviet past for its Mon­gol roots, and em­brac­ing Western pop cul­ture. They’re young, newly af­flu­ent, and enamoured with fast cars, easy money and pop­pin’ bot­tles in the club.

If all of this sounds fa­mil­iar – think China’s re­cent ur­ban ex­plo­sion – then re­alise that while all this is hap­pen­ing, Mon­go­lians also pos­sess a strong sense of their roots, from horses to fal­conry. They also do things with leg­endary gusto – the de­scen­dants of Genghis Khan do not do things by halves. The new ur­ban trend­set­ters like Mrs M all drive new cars, lis­ten­ing to the lat­est dance mu­sic and hip-hop as the win­dows rat­tle from the bass.

Driv­ing around Ulaan­baatar with Mrs M, cranes dot the land­scape in every di­rec­tion. The city is ex­plod­ing with new money from oil, min­ing and a prop­erty boom. Ac­cord­ingly, traf­fic is bumper to bumper and park­ing is scarce. But we move along at a pro­fil­ing pace, with the stereo bump­ing new tracks by A$AP Ferg and Mi­gos. Mrs M shrugs and bobs to the mu­sic, look­ing every bit like a home­girl from the hood, but with an easy el­e­gance that el­e­vates her.

It’s hard to ex­plain her X fac­tor, but what­ever it is, Mrs M has it in gi­ant doses. She dresses ex­clu­sively in black and the frames of her over­sized shades have a large gold “M” on each side. She wears fire-engine-red lip­stick on her full, pouty lips. If you had to try to limit her ef­fect to a sin­gle word, it would be “con­fi­dent” – which is al­ways sexy. When I ask about the sun­glasses, she says, “I wear them be­cause I am Mrs M when they are on. If I take them off, no­body will recog­nise me at all – which is nice.” In­deed, walk­ing around the city as she dons them, we’re stopped by fans for self­ies every few blocks.

De­scrib­ing her mu­sic, Mrs M says, “I love Erykah Badu the most. She is the per­fect role model for me.” And this ex­plains a lot, be­cause her mu­si­cal muse is also multi-tal­ented and orig­i­nal, ex­ud­ing a con­fi­dent en­ergy that strad­dles dif­fer­ent mu­si­cal worlds. When I ask Mrs M about her Face­book han­dle, Cie Badu, she tells me it means “Love Badu” in Mon­go­lian. But where Badu ex­plores jazz, soul and hip-hop, Mrs M starts with sim­i­larly sul­try soul stylings and hyp­notic trip-hop grooves, but takes them into the elec­tro world of syn­co­pated, blippy trap beats – and that’s where it gets in­ter­est­ing.

Mrs M’s sin­gle “Bang”, which was fea­tured on the Vibe Presents: Ur­ban Asia Vol­ume 1 com­pi­la­tion from ear­lier this year, is built around a sim­ple trap beat, with the hook lifted from Kreayshawn’s “Gucci Gucci” – but she makes it re­fresh­ingly cool, ex­otic and funky through her unique flow. The video fea­tures her crew head­ing out for a night on the town in Ulaan­baatar – par­ty­ing it up, drink­ing out of red Solo cups, danc­ing in a dark club (with an in­ex­pli­ca­ble strip­per pole in the bath­room) and rid­ing around on BMX street bikes, pop­ping wheel­ies in the night. Does this scene truly ex­ist, I ask? “It’s a mu­sic video,” she says and shrugs. “It’s just some­thing I did with my friends for fun.” The video has nearly half a mil­lion YouTube views – no small feat con­sid­er­ing Mon­go­lia has a pop­u­la­tion of just three mil­lion.

Mrs M tells me she has al­ways been around mu­sic, and she can play gui­tar and drums as well. So why hip-hop? “When the Rus­sians left in ’89, there was a vac­uum and no­body knew what was re­ally go­ing on,” she ex­plains. “The govern­ment was bull­shit, and the only peo­ple telling the truth were the rap­pers. So hip-hop be­came fa­mous, al­most like a folk mu­sic.” The Mon­go­lian hip-hop scene was dom­i­nated by males un­til she burst onto the scene in 2015 at age 22, af­ter agree­ing to sing on top pro­ducer Lil Thug-E’s song “Tsor Gants” (“My Only One”). With his moody RnB groove and her typ­i­cally smooth, sul­try flow, the song was an in­stant hit and has racked up more than 2.7 mil­lion YouTube views to date.

Mrs M has al­ways loved RnB, hip-hop and soul the best, she says, but she tries not to limit her mu­si­cal ex­pe­ri­ences. This be­comes ap­par­ent when you lis­ten to the di­verse in­flu­ences on her 2016 de­but al­bum, Gen­tle­man. It re­ally is, for lack of a bet­ter term, nu-soul – in that ev­ery­thing she touches on the al­bum is com­pletely soul­ful. The “Gen­tle­man” video is a one-take shot of a beau­ti­ful Mon­go­lian woman smil­ing, look­ing wor­ried, cry­ing, com­pos­ing her­self, mas­cara run­ning, eyes dry­ing, smil­ing again… and it’s just about all the emo­tions that a woman might have while ar­gu­ing with a man. It’s sim­ply ar­rest­ing to watch. When I ask Mrs M why she didn’t play her­self in the video, she says, “Oh no, I’m not an ac­tress!”

Cur­rently work­ing on her first English­language sin­gle, “Tasty”, for B2 Mu­sic, Mrs M will have an EP of new songs ready by the new year. She plans to mix in Mon­go­lian with English, and maybe even a few cheeky lines of Man­darin, as she has re­cently been at­tract­ing Chi­nese fans who dis­cov­ered her from the

Vibe com­pi­la­tion. With fes­ti­val dates in China, Thai­land and the US in the works, it looks like Mrs M will soon be taking her act on the road and show­cas­ing Mon­go­lia’s smooth am­bas­sador of soul.

Art­work from Mrs M’s al­bum Gen­tle­man

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Hong Kong

© PressReader. All rights reserved.