Words by Jesse Serwer
Hiphop from Toronto has always had a strong reggae/dancehall bent, from the Dream Warriors to Drake—not to mention the yardcore stylings of Kardinal Offishall, Choclair, etc. It is North America’s second yardiest city after NYC, after all. The first rapper from Canada–or anywhere outside the US, for that matter–that I ever came across was a fly Jamaican chick named Michie Mee. I can distinctly remember catching Michie (not to be confused with Michie One of Louchie Lou fame) and DJ LA Luv’s video for “Jamaican Funk–Canadian Style” on Yo! (or was it Video Music Box?) in my parents’ living room around 1990. Michie came across like a foxier version of MC Lyte (she was signed to Lyte’s father Nat Robinson’s label First Priority) but then midway through the song she switched it up and starts chatting in a hardcore deejay style. Madness.
“Jamaican Funk,” in its title, references Tom Browne’s soul-jazz classic “Funkin’ For Jamaica,” AKA “Jamaica Funk,” a song many people don’t realize is not about Jamaica, West Indies but Browne’s hometown of Jamaica, Queens, NYC. Recently, I had the chance to tell the story of Browne and “Funkin’ For Jamaica” (as part of a broader article on the jazz and funk scene in Jamaica, Queens) in the latest issue of Wax Poetics. One of the more amusing anecdotes I came away with was how Browne got a gig at a huge music festival in Jamaica, West Indies, based on the assumption that he was singing about yard. “I didn’t have the heart to tell anybody” it wasn’t about that Jamaica, Browne told me. “They knew the words and it said Jamaica, so that’s fine. Roll with it.”
I can’t help but wonder if Michie and her producers made the same mistake, too, when they came up with “Jamaican Funk–Canadian Style.” If they did, it was for good, because this video (with its wannabe Keith Haring set) is a gem, and possibly the earliest video document of Canadian yard-hop there is. The best thing about digging it up was that it led to an even richer treasure: a circa-’90 news segment from Canadian video channel Much Music documenting Michie and LA Luv’s journey to Jamaica to record with Pinchers, party at Stone Love, and perform at Sting. Check it out after the jump, then watch a clip of Michie performing “Jamaican Funk” live on Canadian TV.