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Born and bred in Queens, New York and now making waves in Taiwan as the reigning queen of Mandarin hip hop, Miss Ko has travelled across continents and languages to get her music out. We sit down with the Taiwan music icon to get her playlist of songs that have defined her.
Advisory: Featured songs may contain explicit lyrics.
Miss Ko: I grew up listening to different kinds of music. Back in the early ’90s before the internet was prominent or Shazam was available, I used to record everything directly from the radio onto cassettes on my player.
Although I don’t remember listening to any one particular song all the time, I do remember one song very vividly—Boyz II Men’s Motownphilly. Because I tripped over a chair and hurt my pinky toe running to the radio to record it. Haha!
It would have to be a tie between Mobb Deep’s Shook Ones and Nas’ N.Y. State of Mind.
Shook Ones is just an iconic hip hop classic. Hip hop listeners all around the world know or should know it whenever it comes on. It’s real hip hop!
As for N.Y. State of Mind, I feel like it really portrays the mentality of a New Yorker, which is not to take sh*t from anyone and recognising what’s real and what’s not.
Soft Lipa’s 《收斂水》 Lotion. It’s simple, laid-back, but also deep and thought-provoking—similar to my sentiments about Taiwan when I first arrived.
As one of the first songs I ever heard in Mandarin, I was intrigued by how beautiful and poetic hip hop could be in another language, which is what inspired me to work with Soft Lipa and start writing in Mandarin myself.
I’d make everyone listen to my songs, of course! Haha, just kidding!
There’s actually one song that I feel both men and women (especially) should listen to, and that’s Lauryn Hill’s Doo Wop (That Thing).
It just talks a lot of sense to women nowadays about how to be strong and not let men take advantage of us, which is an issue that every woman faces and every man needs to recognise. We all deserve respect regardless of gender.
2pac’s Changes. I saw the music video on TV when I was in junior high and started crying, which is odd because before that I had never really thought much about racism or social injustice. But by the end of that song I knew just how important it was to acknowledge it.
The song showed me how powerful words could be, which is what inspired me to start writing songs as well.
My favourite song is Stylin’—only because it’s the first song I ever wrote!
But Stylin’ was never officially released so if we’re talking officially released then I’d have to say it’s between Till Next Time, which is a song I wrote about one of my best friends John Tran, who passed away in high school, and Queen of Queens, because it represents exactly who I am and what I’m about.
I’d tell them to check out my first album Knock Out, in particular Slide and the title track because that’s when I first started rapping in Mandarin.
If you go from that to my current album, you’ll not only see how versatile and fun hip hop can be, but also how much my Mandarin improves (hopefully). Haha!
Miss Ko made her Singapore debut in in::music – Miss Ko: Here Comes the Queen at Huayi – Chinese Festival of Arts on 2 Mar 2018, Fri.