Herstory 14: The Canadian Rapper Ahead of Her Time
Toronto prides itself in being the most multicultural city in the world. Over time, that title goes from simple demographic data to a definitive way that we create art and culture. Canadian rappers like Drake, Tory Lanez, an RamRiddlz create musical fusions that actually sound like Toronto. It can be a slippery slope for sure (note Drake’s culture vulture tendencies) but your development as a creative does take a unique turn when you’ve got the world at your fingertips. We can see similar trends in New York City with artists like Anik Khan.
But before any of these modern-day powerhouses - there were the ones creating the wave for everyone else to ride on. In a lot of ways, that was Michie Mee - a 14 year old from Toronto. She was claiming Toronto before it was “The Six” - before it was even “T-Dot.”
Meet Michie Mee
Michelle Mcculloch, better known as Michie Mee, was born in Kingston, Jamaica and moved to Toronto as a young girl. In an interview with the Come Up Show, she mentions that she would compare notes with her cousins in the early days of her career. Her cousins’ were reggae artists while she was hip hop. At some point she started to fuse the sounds of "back home" with the emerging sound of hip hop. Michie Mee was like a cross between a b-girl and dancehall queen. In 2018, this cultural hybridization is nothing new to kids that call Toronto home. But it was unheard of in the late 80's. Oh and an emcee from Canada? also unheard of.
Toronto’s hip hop scene was still in its infancy, so Michie Mee Would sneak out to rap battles in New York City nightclubs. In NYC, nobody took Toronto seriously but she quickly made a name for herself.
In 1988, her experimenting paid off & she was the first Canadian rapper with an American record deal, paving the way for many of our Canadian hip hop powerhouses. She signed with First Priority/Atlantic Records at 14 years old. Michie Mee's deal was a turning point - Toronto's music scene was very rock-friendly, but labels were unsure about hip hop. This attitude still exists today but it takes a different form. Hip hop is the fasting growing genre in Canada but it still feels like a tough sell with industry folks and venue owners.
Michie Mee's international success helped debunk a lot of those early hip hop myths. She set the foundation for Toronto's hip hop scene and gave a new take on what it means to be a Canadian rapper.
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For our Herstory Lessons blog series - we're retelling the stories of womxn in music that have been misheard, mislabeled, or erased completely from our history books.
If information looks incorrect, please let us know! When we're retelling stories that are left out of our history books, finding info can get tricky. We want to make sure we're portraying these stories as accurately as possible!