YYC to YQB: Mic Starink, MissFudge and Mr. Precise chat about Envol et Macadam [Interview]
Calgary, AB – Last week, Calgary’s own Mic Starink, MissFudge and Mr. Precise held things down for Canadian hip-hop by hitting the stage at Envol et Macadam in Quebec City. That’s right – from YYC to YQB.
The Calgary-based trio of MC Mic Starink, vocalist MissFudge, and producer Mr. Precise (who you may also know as KG – one of the promoters behind True Rhythm and a friendly familiar face in Calgary’s hip-hop scene) entered and won the Canadian leg of the Planetrox contest. They landed a stage slot right before Sublime. Here’s the deal: Planetrox is an international competition that gives up-and-comers from all genres a chance to perform at Envol et Macadam. Thousands of contestants enter each year. And one winner is selected from each of the participating countries. It just so happens that these three won this year.
So from Sept. 4 until Sept. 6, these Calgarian cats went over to Quebec City to hold things down at the festival. We were fortunate enough to catch up with them the evening before their flight departed last week. And we had a killer chop-up. See how it all went down after the jump.
“We are a trio but we have our own branches. It’s like a family.” – Mic Starink
For the record: I hadn’t even heard about this whole deal until last month when I saw the True Rhythm fam for my interview with Onyx at Le Rock. Here’s the thing about KG; he’s one of the most humble dudes you’ll ever come across. It wasn’t even KG that told me he’d won the competition – it was his True Rhythm business partner, Ryan, who told me the news.
So of course I had to sit down and chop it up with KG. He invited Mic Starink and MissFudge to come along. The four of us met up at Le Rock (shout-out to the whole Le Rock fam – by the way) and sat down for a chop-up. We went back-and-fourth for almost half-an-hour.
Q&A: Mic Starink, MissFudge, and Mr. Precise
Interview conducted by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: So I thought we’d just get started with how you three all met each other and how that all came into effect.
Mic Starink: It was sort of…fate.
Mic Starink: It’s a small world. We know a lot of the same people but we never really knew that. [KG]’s been a part of the music scene here in Calgary for a long time. I’ve been waiting for my chance to break into it. Once we [met], we just started connecting [and] making the music. It led into meeting [MissFudge] and we needed a female singer. That worked out really well.
MissFudge: KG and I know each other from drum-n-bass parties around the city, and some hip-hop shows, and stuff. [turns to KG] I think we threw our first and only dubstep party with you.
Mr. Precise: Oh yeah? [laughs] That’s right.
MissFudge: And then I met Mic through Kal.
HipHopCanada: When was the first time you three actually got together as one unit?
Mic Starink: A year-and-a-half ago. It was just like meeting any other group. You trial-and-error. You experiment. And things just start working. The sound was there and we just kept going with it.
Mr. Precise: I had a stockpile of music from over the years that I’d just been accumulating and not releasing with any artist…
HipHopCanada: That’s so “producer” of you…
Mr. Precise: [laughs] Yeah. Then when me and Mic started jamming, I was a little stand-offish at first. Well, you know how most rappers are. [laughs] It can be a lot of talk and not a lot of workload. But when I met Mic, he was always ready to work all the time. So we started putting in work and going through all of the old beats I had. And then we realized we definitely needed a female singer. Me and [MissFudge] had shot the ideas around while partying, and stuff. We brought her to the studio, and that was pretty much it.
Mic Starink: It was just magic in the booth after that.
HipHopCanada: Do you consider yourselves a trio, then?
Mic Starink: It’s starting to become that. It’s really hard to narrow it down. I’m really hip-hop-focused. [MissFudge] is really electronic and soul-focused. And Kal loves his electronic, as well. But he’s a great hip-hop producer. We are a trio but we have our own branches. It’s like a family.
Mr. Precise: Candice does a lot of side-projects, too. With other producers. I have a solo project of some electronic stuff coming out. And before I did Hidden Elementz with [Calgary-based beatboxer] Ominous. Candice also likes to do different features with different genres. We haven’t really closed the door as far as labeling us all as one. We’re still kind of as individual artists, but working as a trio.
HipHopCanada: I do find it very interesting – just focusing on you – because you do the concert promoting. You deal with a lot of the local rap cats and you have a very good sense of what is really amateur, versus what is really good. And I would assume you have quite high standards.
Mr. Precise: Definitely. It’s a lot of work that goes into engineering and mixing; from the first original beat, all the way to the end. We don’t really sample too much. Pretty much everything is from scratch.
Mic Straink: Yeah. There’s no remakes…
HipHopCanada: Good. I wrote an angry article about that.
HipHopCanada: So about the contest – how did you guys decide to enter it?
Mic Starink: Honestly, it was kind of on me. It’s tough to break out. I just started outsourcing. I was looking everywhere I could to start throwing my music at people. We started getting a lot of hits on our first song when we did that. It just got the right attention. That’s what [the contest officiators] put it to: our judges went through [with a] fine-tooth comb and we have these finalists and we’ve chosen you. We’re the only hip-hop-kind-of act that’s even going to be at the festival. Period.
Mr. Precise: Yeah. The two bands before are Madball, Sick Of It All. Then there’s us. And Sublime right after. There’s a lot of alternative…
Mic Starink: Heavy punk bands… I’m humbled to be asked to go…
Mr. Precise: The timeslot, too, on the Saturday was really shocking.
Mic Starink: Right before Sublime.
Mr. Precise: Second-last act. Main stage. Final night.
Mic Starink: It’s a lot to take in.
HipHopCanada: What’s that like – to be representing Canadian hip-hop on that level?
MissFudge: It’s incredible.
Mic Starink: It’s sort of…
Mic Starink and Mr. Precise (together): …humbling.
Mic Starink: At the same time, I feel righteous in it. It’s a crowded scene and it’s nice to be one to break out and try something different and have people from far outside of Calgary notice that and call you up.
HipHopCanada: I think when a lot of people think “Canadian hip-hop” they think, “Toronto: that’s where it’s at.” You guys are like, “No.”
MissFudge: Shout-out to Nova Scotia. I’m actually from Nova Scotia. I love Calgary. I’ve been here for like 10 years.
Mic Starink: I’m actually from Edmonton. And BC. I grew up in Maple Ridge.
Mr. Precise: …I’m from Calgary.
Mic Starink: …but somehow I don’t know Snak the Ripper.
HipHopCanada: Fill me in on how this contest actually worked.
Mic Starink: It’s called Planetrox and I think they’ve been doing it with the festival for about 19 years. And they throw the contest out there to the world and Canada’s the only one that doesn’t televise it; there’s Japan, China, Uganda, all of Europe…
Mr. Precise: One winner from each, kind-of-thing…
Mic Starink: There’s a winner from each of them and they’re flown out to Quebec for this giant festival. A lot of big bands got their start there.
HipHopCanada: So it’s not even so much a Canadian music festival it’s an international music festival. So you guys are representing Canada – and not even. You’re just representing hip-hop.
MissFudge: I looked through and saw that I’m the only female performing on that Saturday night and… the world just kind of went “Voom, voom, voom.” Holy shit. It’s such an honour, you know?
Mr. Precise: We’ll be a breath of fresh air, I think. With all of the rock bands going on. And then you get a female vocalist come out and sing. It’ll resonate.
Mic Starink: It’s going to be quite the switch.
HipHopCanada: I feel like it’s not even fair to classify you guys as “hip-hop.” You’re just doing your thing…
Mic Starink: We don’t think so either. I’m a huge fan of the electronic scene. It’s hard to find where that mix is. Slowly, we’ve been finding that.
Mr. Precise: I think we are actually doing a couple of electronic songs in our set…
Mic Starink: We don’t feel constricted by that. I don’t even – myself – feel constricted as an MC. I see myself as a songwriter.
Mr. Precise: All of the beats, too, have live guitar— acoustic and electronic…
Mic Starink: It’s not just samples, and stuff like that.
HipHopCanada: So for each of you – individually – what do you think it was that helped you win?
MissFudge: I think it’s just what we were talking about how we don’t label ourselves as anything specific. We just go with our gut feeling and we go because we vibe with the music and we vibe off each other. And I think that sets us apart. And that’s – maybe – what [the judges of the contest] heard.
Mic Starink: It’s the effort. Honestly. It’s been a long road. And it’s still going to be a long road. A lot of people don’t know the amount of effort it takes to make it anywhere.
HipHopCanada: What does that effort look like?
Mic Starink: “Sounds like,” is the term…
Mr. Precise: I was going to say the same. The work ethic and the persistence of sticking to it. But I really like what Candice said, too. It’s a combination of the amount of work we put in, compared to also being a perfect fit for this particular festival [and] contest. ‘Cause our demographic does cross…
HipHopCanada: And you said you have this album coming out?
Mr. Precise: Yeah. I’ve got this stockpile of about four or five electronic tunes that are done now, which Candice will be dibbling and dabbling with when we get back [to Calgary]. It’s time to get back in the studio. I always have solo stuff in the works. But there’s no deadline on that. A lot of times my solo stuff ends up becoming a collab project. Which is fine, too. Because then it ends up being so much better, anyways.
Mic Starink: Plus, we like to just push the music out there. We can’t keep pushing the best single we have out. We need to give people something new to listen to.
HipHopCanada: That’s so crucial. SO crucial. So many people will release one single and they’ll just plug it for months. And I think that’s what you’re talking about, too: the importance of hustle. Working, and working, and working, and working, and working…
MissFudge: It’s always.
Mic Starink: There’s more than one side of it. People think they can just get their friends to come to shows and that’s going to be what gets them there. Or they [think they’ll make it because they] know how to write a rhyme. It’s more than that.
HipHopCanada: Friends always want guest list.
HipHopCanada: Those friends don’t support.
Mic Starink: I mean, you can only ask people to come to the same show so many times.
HipHopCanada: What’s it like for you guys to actually be at a point where you’re getting recognition – not just from “Hey friends, listen to my new song” – but from people who you don’t know?
Mr. Precise: It’s a great…
Mic Starink: It’s a great feeling.
Mr. Precise: It’s what every artist wants.
Mic Starink: Whether it be good or bad, that’s what you want.
MissFudge: The first time I signed an autograph was for this girl – not too long ago. At the Kitty show. Because I’m part of the Big Kitty Crew, too. And she’d hauled out a picture that she bought from there and asked me to sign it. And I was like, “Oh my god! YES! I love you.” I gave her a big hug. So that’s pretty surreal – to have that happen. Like, ‘she liiikees me.’ You know? [laughs]
Mic Starink: It never ceases to amaze me when strangers say things. Your friends will give you their opinion. But to have people approach you at shows, or comment across-the-globe to you on what you’ve done…it just kind of makes you sit back and and say “Wow.”
Mr. Precise: And it motivates you.
Mic Starink: It motivates you. That’s what writes songs.
HipHopCanada: So KG – directing at you because you like to stay quiet…
HipHopCanada: You’re a concert promoter. Now you’re doing producing and it’s starting to come to fruition. Where’s that balance, there?
Mr. Precise: I actually always produced. That’s how I started. That was my background in college. Audio production. But when I got out I realized there wasn’t money to make right-off-the-bat with that so I kept that as a hobby and kept working away at that. Got into the live-sound industry and then realized that really wasn’t for me, either. So I started throwing shows. Did well with that. Kept the music going as I was doing shows. And through throwing shows, I got to meet people like Mic and Candice – just being in the scene and staying relevant. And learn the industry from the inside. But the balance? I don’t know. Right now, I’ll just go where it takes me. True Rhythm – I’ll always keep going. If it’s not me, I would definitely pass the torch to someone else like my partner Ryan.
HipHopCanada: Shout-out to Ryan. He’s the one who told me you’d won the contest, in the first place.
Mr. Precise: Ryan, Ryan…But yeah. I’m just playing it by ear. When I have time to work on music, I do. But now when it gets more serious – like this festival – I definitely carve more time out of my schedule to do that.
HipHopCanada: And you guys are going to be going to some other festivals.
Mic Starink: We get to do one – it’s a bit newer. It’s their second year, now. It’s called Waynefest. They’re holding it at Burnt Timber this year. And then after that, we’re going to come back [to Calgary] for the Tech N9ne show. And then back out to B.C. for FozzyFest Festival. It starts on my thirtieth birthday.
Mr. Precise: And then [in] October we’ll be joining DubFX opening for three shows, so far: Calgary, Edmonton and Banff.
Mic Starink: And then I think after DubFX we’ll go back to the studio, again.
MissFudge: I just get so inspired from that. Last time they were here it was mind-blowing.
Mr. Precise: This is the fifth time I’ve toured with them, personally.
HipHopCanada: So tomorrow you head off. You play on Saturday. Are you going to be hitting the rest of the festival?
Mic Starink: We play two nights. [On] Wednesday we’re guests of the party they hold for all of the winners. And they have a live performance by some of the local bands. And then the next night we play at that same venue before the headliner. And then Saturday is when we go play on the main stage. We’ll be all over the place.
Mr. Precise: We’ll be there quite a bit.
HipHopCanada: We’ve talked about the fact that it’s going to be so huge and exciting that you guys are going to be the only hip-hop act there. But at the same time, is there a worry that you won’t play nicely with others?
Mic Starink: I’m not too worried. I listen to a lot of the other artists. There’s not just punk bands. There’s a very large spectrum of musicians that come to this festival. A lot of them aren’t even going to be able to speak French or English.
MissFudge: There’s a Japanese band there that looks killer. I definitely want to check them out.
Mic Starink: [And] the band from Mexico. They have a female lead singer and she’s amazing.
Mr. Precise: It feels like they wouldn’t have put us there if they thought it wouldn’t have been a good fit.
HipHopCanada: It sounds like you guys are going to use it as an opportunity to network and explore the other genres.
Mic Starink: Quebec is a whole other world.
Mr. Precise: Networking will be a huge part of this trip.
HipHopCanada: Very “business,” KG…
HipHopCanada: “Let’s network, guys!”
Mr. Precise: Wednesday is all strictly for networking. They actually said in the schedule: Bring your promo stuff to network, and stuff. [points to MissFudge and Mic] They’ll do the artist-thing, I’ll takeover more of the…
HipHopCanada: You’ll wear your suit.
Mr. Precise: No suits. A suit would just be over-the-top.
HipHopCanada: So before we wrap up, I want each of you to tell me about the moment where you fell in love with music.
Mic Starink: I’ve been singing along to music and writing little ballads since forever – idolizing some singer growing up…
Mr. Precise: I did get to sit in on a recording session when I was really young in Jamaica with my dad, with Ziggy Marley and Scratch Perry. And that, I remember being like, “I’m going to be in music for sure.” That was ’97. I still have this little signed poster on my desk. That was sweet…
Mic Starink: Music gripped ahold of me with writing. I didn’t really get into writing music until I was a writer. I used to get in trouble at school because we’d have to write short stories and mine would just go on for pages and pages and pages. When I found hip-hop, it was just like, “I have all of this room to speak.” It’s just been on since there.
MissFudge: I actually remember – specifically – one time when I was singing and it was one of those Kawanis Festivals, or whatever. I was 12 or 13, or something. And I sang acapella, and I sang “Amazing Grace.” My great-grandmother had just passed away. I remember just being on stage and giving it everything I had and I got a standing ovation and my friends that were sitting in the big row – they lost their minds. I came in second place for that. And I was like, “You know, guys? This is what I was meant to do.” Just because I’m not technically-perfect, it doesn’t mean that the feeling I get from this is not what I should be doing. So that’s pretty much when I knew.
Mr. Precise: It’s crazy how we all have such vivid memories, hey?
MissFudge: You’re giving me cold chills right now.
HipHopCanada: So many feelings.
Mr. Precise: I lucked out that day. It just turned out that my dad’s friend was the manager of this hotel we were staying at. And he’s like, “The Marleys are recording in their room.” So we go up there with my dad, and they’re all smoking out of hollowed-out coconuts. I didn’t know what it was, at the time. And then you go into the backroom and it’s Scratch Perry – who I didn’t know at the time, either. He had this homemade mixer— wires poppin’ out everywhere – recording right-to-tape. It was like, “THIS IS SO COOL!” My brother wouldn’t wake up from the hotel room to come. I was like, “You missed out, man.” I still – to this day – I’m like, “You missed it.”
HipHopCanada: So any last words or shout-outs that you’d each like to make?
Mic Starink: We’re coming back and we’re going to be louder about everything.
Mr. Precise: Lots of more music coming – for sure.
MissFudge: I want to shout-out Come Correct. ‘Cause that’s my other crew. And Big Kitty Crew. And [I] just [want to] say thank-you for having us here.
Mr. Precise: Shout-out to HipHopCanada. Obviously. And –of course – True Rhythm. Ominous. Everyone else.
Mic Starink: I’m just humbly quiet because there’s so many people around me that…
MissFudge: It’s amazing. Thank you.
Interview and photography by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada