M is for the moment
Mongolia’s top rapper Mrs M has been putting the work in
It’s never been easy being female in Hip Hop. Now, imagine being the only female MC in a country that is tucked firmly between China and Russia.
Ladies and gentlemen...all hail the queen!
LiFTED had a chance to sit down with one of Asia’s biggest female artists - Mrs M. Besides being Mongolia’s top Hip Hop artist – no small feat, as there’s been a thriving scene there for three decades – she is also the first to record in English and the first to break out into the international market with her upcoming collaboration with Hip Hop hitmaker Harry Fraud, which will come out in May.
Previously Mrs M caught the attention of the wider Asian audience with her single ‘Bang’ that was featured on VIBE Presents: Urban Asia Vol 1 in 2018. That compilation from the iconic US magazine was distributed internationally and cemented Mrs M’s status as a force to be reckoned with in Asia. Her next single, ‘Tasty’, released on b2 Music, was the first Mongolian Hip Hop track in English and featured a slick music video that put both Mrs M and her hometown of Ulaanbaatar on the map. It has racked up over 3 million YouTube views to date, and also caught the attention of Harry Fraud, the New York producer of French Montana, Wiz Khalifa, Benny the Butcher, and more who invited her to his Brooklyn Wave Cave studio. They recorded two singles and began a creative partnership that places Mrs M in rare international territory as an Asian Hip Hop artist. While she was in NYC, she also performed a sold-out showcase at Downtown New York’s biggest weekly party, Soul in the Horn with DJ Natasha Diggs - where Hip Hop and Soul luminaries like Erykah Badu regularly grab the mic.
And then COVID-19 struck. Plans were put on hold and collaboration became more difficult. Artists have been forced to focus their efforts on what they can do close to home. For Mrs M it meant releasing a spate of singles in her native tongue with long-time collaborator Ginjin, all of which routinely rack up millions of YouTube views. Now, as the world is slowly crawling out of the COVID-19 wreckage and starting to open back up, we met up with Mrs M to discuss her upcoming single and plans for 2021.
Spring is in the air, and hope is back on the menu.
Can you explain how you got the name Mrs M?
First of all, greetings from Mongolia and thank you for having me as the second cover of LiFTED. Well, you know my name, it’s kind of a lot of things. It’s M for tha money! You know, I’m chasing the money. But it’s also M for Mongolia, M for the Music, M for the Moment etc. Just don’t forget it!
In all of your videos and every pic we’ve seen you always have oversized black sunglasses on. How did that happen?
Well, my parents really didn’t want me to be an artist. They wanted me to go to law school. So I thought I will do just one last song - for me and never do it again, and then try law school. So I recorded a track, ‘Tsor Gants’ and in the video I never showed my face, and was always shot from the back, just to hide from my parents. And suddenly it was the number one hit song on the Mongolian charts. So that told me a lot, it gave me confidence to keep going. But my parents still didn’t know, so I decided to wear big sunglasses. And it got to be my style. Of course, my parents found out but today they are super proud of me. I proved it for myself.
Your career really took off around 2017 when ‘Bang’ became your first big solo hit. Then it was on the VIBE Presents: Urban Asia compilation. How did it feel to get recognition outside of Mongolia?
Well, ‘Bang’ came after ‘Tsor Gants’ and it was also big. I was really surprised when a famous magazine like VIBE wanted to use the track. I mean the whole song is in Mongolian, and it’s a strange sounding language even compared to other Asian languages. But I guess a hot beat and good song works no matter what language. I was amazed to hear that people in China thought I was Chinese, and in other countries, too. It’s like they weren’t listening to the language, just the overall vibe. Plus the music video really could be anywhere. We just look like kids having fun.
Can you tell us about the Hip Hop scene in Mongolia? How has it evolved over the years?
Hip Hop got huge here because rappers tell the truth, and pop music doesn’t really do that. So, when the Soviets left Mongolia there was a power vacuum, and those early rappers were some of the only people who spoke openly and criticized the political landscape and everything else. So people really listened to it and came to love it. Since those early days it has changed a lot – the beatmakers and rappers all got better, still usually following the trends of US Hip Hop, but with very Mongolian features.
What’s it like to be a successful female MC in Mongolia? Is the scene very male dominated?
Let’s just say I really hope that in the future there will be many more female rappers.
On your Mongolian releases, it seems like you’re basically partnered with Ginjin, who’s also a big star. You guys have some massive hits together. How did that come about?
Ginjin and I are like siblings. From the moment we knew that we were sister and brother from another mother, we started to make music together, and we really enjoy working together, as we have a similar vision. Now we are working on our first album.
What made you decide to record ‘Tasty’ in English? Did people at home have a hard time understanding your lyrics? Was there any pushback from your fans?
I always want to raise my country's name up through my music. I am very patriotic. At that time rapping in English was new, and I wanted to show I could do it. Nowadays, a lot of people here in Mongolia are learning English and even some jobs require English skill. Thus, it was never a problem but just ahead of the curve maybe. The only problem for my fans was they asked for translation!
When I tell people ‘Tasty’ was shot in Ulaanbaatar, they are shocked. Were you trying to put UB on the map with that one?
Well, a lot of people don’t even know where Mongolia is, and some foreigners think we are not developed. But Ulaanbaatar has changed a lot in the last decade and I really just wanted to show that. Plus my city looks awesome at night.
Now you’re getting ready to drop not one, but two new tracks with one of the hottest Hip Hop producers on the planet, Harry Fraud. Tell us how that relationship came about and what was the experience like going to New York to work with him?
That was sooo amazing. It Was my first time in the US. I really appreciated it all. I was super nervous when I met Harry, because I was a huge fan of Curren$y and other rappers he produced. I flew 13 hours straight to NYC and was jet lagged. Because of that, everything felt like I was dreaming, but no, it was no dream. I was walking around in Brooklyn just checking everything out. All the different colors and cultures all in one place. We recorded in his studio and everyone was really nice to me. I was amazed that they were also interested in me! I think he is super talented and really knows how to work with artists. He’s really open-minded to work with me or any Asian artists. When I first heard the beat for ‘M For Tha Money’ I loved it and started writing, and now we’re getting ready to release it.
Your live set at Soul in the Horn in New York must have been mind blowing. You’ve mentioned in past interviews that Erykah Badu is your musical spirit animal. What was it like to be on that stage in front of her fans? Did you get love from them?
I still can’t believe that really happened. It felt like I met her. And the people were so nice, they really got these curious eyes, like, who is this? You know. So I just thought, this is my opportunity to show them who I am. So I closed my eyes and just did it like I do it on my home stage. And it was so cool, they gave me love. I really felt the vibe.
Tell us a bit about your new single ‘M For Tha Money.’ What’s it about? Harry Fraud also remixed your single ‘Sugar Daddy’ last year, with that crazy video - is it trippy like that?
‘M For Tha Money’, that’s for the people who owe me. You know it happens a lot when you’re coming up. People wanted me to play, and then didn’t pay me...promoters, festival organizers, even other artists. I think they wouldn’t dare to try it now. This is my way of putting them on blast. Yeah, his remix of ‘Sugar Daddy’ was next next level...at first I didn’t recognize my own song! But I love it now.
Like the rest of the world, Mongolia has been on lockdown because of the pandemic. Has it been tough for you creatively?
Yeah, the original plan was to fly back to New York to shoot the videos, but then COVID happened. So I focused on my Mongolian stuff with GinJin, and we released a couple singles here. Now we’re working on an album. So we decided to just shoot the ‘M For Tha Money’ video here in UB and things are starting to open up, which is good because I’m so ready!
Finally, what does 2021 look like for Mrs M?
Well, I’m going to release these singles and then Harry and I keep working on some new stuff we have cooking. I’m excited for LiFTED because for so long there wasn’t really an outlet covering Asian Hip Hop, and I’m really looking forward to touring all over the region once we’re all open again. The summer is the best time in Mongolia, and it will be great to perform and travel again. 2021 is going to be good!