Interview with Mizz Nina
Hip hop culture is synonymous with the macho aesthetic: the music and art are infused with self-assured swagger and proclamations of being better than the next man—with the emphasis being on the word “man”. It is, therefore, a landmark when a hip hop artist brings something fresh to the table, be it a flipped musical style or a never-before-seen onstage delivery or content that stems from a source previously untapped. Bringing all this to Malaysia’s musical front is Mizz Nina.
From hip hop MC to electro groove pop princess, Mizz Nina can certainly admit to living out her dreams. She might have taken on myriad personas in the span of her career, but her groove-hungry soul and love for an infectious beat have been a constant in most of them. Spurred on by a family that has always appreciated artistic expression, Mizz Nina dove headlong into the world of music and entertainment at the tender age of eight and hasn’t looked back since. With her musical influences—MC Lyte, Run-DMC, Lauryn Hill, Talib Kweli and The Roots, among others—on full display every time she’s on the mic, the scene has embraced Mizz Nina’s distinct take on the art of rhythm and poetry with open arms.
Gaining tutelage from The Singing Shop in PJ (which was founded by her mother), Mizz Nina initially moved between underground hip hop gigs and college shows in 1996, impressing such late 90s giants as Poetic Ammo. In 1997, she formed First Born Troopz with Fiquetional, with whom she would cofound seminal Malaysian hip hop group Teh Tarik Crew (TTC) in 1999. It was with TTC that her musical career truly took off, with two AIM nominations in 2002 for the group’s full-length album How’s The Level? and a radio show of her own on the now-defunct WoWfm (hosting WowVibe).
Critical acclaim soon poured in as TTC obtained recognition as one of KLue magazine’s best local groups, with the group committing to an advertising campaign for Ribena that exposed Mizz Nina’s image and music to the public on an unprecedented level.
By 2004, Mizz Nina had under her belt a modelling career, more radio shows (on Red FM and Fly FM) and two more AIM nominations—this time for Teh Tarik Crew’s sophomore album, What’s Next? She also went on a national Hotlink tour and performed at such notable events as Rock The World and the Asian X-Games. Mizz Nina then expanded her repertoire to hosting as she racked up engagements for Salem, Nike, KLue and Johnson & Johnson, culminating in a solo ad campaign for Johnson & Johnson, and TV hosting gigs on 8TV’s Flava and Channel [V].
After spending the latter part of the decade travelling the world, Mizz Nina returned to the scene ready to roll with the punches with a fresh sound and broader musical perspective. Her debut solo album, What You Waiting For, released in July 2010, manifests Mizz Nina’s cool confidence in her newfound vocation as a singer. Sung in English and Malay, the longplayer is a pleasure dome of beguiling beats, innovative melodies and top-notch production, and contains local and international collaborations from the likes of Uno and AJ of Pop Shuvit, Noh from Hujan, DJ Fuzz, Koko and Syaheed of Bedsty Music, Sakke from the Netherlands and Koolade from Croatia, MC Dandee from Bangkok’s Thaitanium Entertainment, Mawar Berduri from Ahli Fiqir, Teeflii and Grammy nominee Planet Asia.
Working with illustrious names in the biz comes as second nature to Mizz Nina, having already sealed liaisons with prominent acts like Too Phat, Reshmonu and Gerhana Ska Cinta throughout her career. But it was the title track and first single from the album that became Mizz Nina’s winning ticket to mass appeal. The catchy pop ditty, for which she partnered up with Colby O’Donis, secured strong spots on local music charts like Carta Negara on XFM, The Freaky Fly 30 on Fly FM, the MET 10 on hitz.fm and the DiGi Top 20 on hitzTV. It also topped the digital download charts with over 600,000 in mobile caller ringtone downloads, making it the first local English single to ever make that achievement in Malaysia.
A million views
Additionally, the song received regular spins on LA-based radio station 102.3 KJLH while the official video (directed by Scott McCullough and shot in LA) exceeded one million views on YouTube just mere months after its release in March. But this is just the tip of the iceberg, with other standout tracks on the album like ‘Kurnia’, ‘Ping Pong’, ‘Sri Kandi’ and ‘Let Me C U Get It’ ensuring her debut gets some deserving credit.
Mizz Nina’s album launch party at Zouk in July saw her masterfully pulling off a press conference and mini-showcase with her crew of dancers (and Colby O’Donis as her special guest) to a packed house. The launch–a milestone event that is still being talked about by her fans, the media and industry insiders–showed that the wait for the unveiling of Mizz Nina as a pop crossover artist was finally over. Today, What You Waiting For has garnered praiseworthy reviews, with the album successfully retailing on iTunes in the US, Japan and Australia, and in countries like Sri Lanka. The exploration of sounds on the new album bears witness to Mizz Nina’s development as a star, her worldliness as an artist and her maturity as an individual whose talent knows no boundaries. Trading in her tracksuit and sneakers for a sleek and sexy persona, Mizz Nina has indeed grown up and fully come into her own as a force to reckon with in the local entertainment industry.
Currently shuffling between her full-time role as the Managing Director of The Singing Shop–where her musical education began–and her innate craft as a singer, entertainer and, most recently, mix DJ (a skill she picked up from her TTC ally DJ Fuzz) to running her own recording studio, Mizz Nina has acquired a steady footing in both the Malaysian indie and underground scenes as well as maintained within arm’s reach of the glam and glitz of KL’s city limits–showing her finesse for fitting into any situation presented to her.
Even with all that, she still finds time to indulge in another passion: fashion design. Debuting at her album launch, Mizz Nina’s youth fashion line, Mizz Demeanor, showcased casual, ready-to-wear ensembles (which include tank tops, T-shirts, jeans, shoes and accessories) that reflect the designer’s down-to-earth and easy-going personality. The highlight of the collection was Mizz Nina’s personalised, limited edition Blackberry cases embellished in Swarovski crystals (sponsored by Liberté). In 2011, Mizz Nina launched her follow-up collection–inspired by hip hop, dance and streetwear–featuring an array of tops, hoodies, sweaters, baseball jackets and backpacks with contrasting colours and prints. Mizz Demeanor is expected to expand its retail accessibility further afield to East Malaysia and Singapore; meanwhile the label can be found at Liberté in KLCC, Amcorp Mall and Sunway Pyramid, and through www.mizznina.com.
For her smashing contribution to Malaysian pop, Mizz Nina was awarded the Flava Award (Hip hop/R&B) at the Shout! Awards in October 2010, beating out respected peers in the category such as Altimet, DJ Fuzz, Joe Flizzow, Malique and Sona One. Following her triumphant debut album, Mizz Nina opened for Usher, Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber in KL to an audience of more than 20,000, and went on to represent Malaysia at the New Skool Rules hip hop convention in Rotterdam (with Joe Flizzow) in April 2011. In May 2011, Mizz Nina released her coveted collaboration with man-of-the-moment Flo Rida on her new single ‘Takeover’, following a chance meeting in September 2010 at a live concert in Malaysia. The single sees Mizz Nina revisiting the same electrifying R&B, hip hop and dance formula that skyrocketed ‘What You Waiting For’ to the upper echelons of the pop universe with an infectious chorus and hooks that make it an unmistakable chart hit. The prolific singer also jetted to Bangkok the following month to open for Flo Rida and debut ‘Takeover’ to eager Thai audiences. The tireless talent also took some time off to get hitched; she married Noh, frontman of indie rock band Hujan, in July 2011 to much fanfare, which was followed by a honeymoon in England, but not before embarking on a promotional tour in Sri Lanka and a series of performance dates.
2012 looks set to be the year of Mizz Nina once again as she takes on Malaysia and beyond with the release of her highly anticipated second album this month. Kick-starting the year on a positive note, Mizz Nina embarked on a month-long radio promotional tour in the US in January to introduce ‘Takeover’ to American audiences. The exclusive tour was also filmed by Kyanite TV–the team behind reality programmes like Yuna Inspired and Miss Universe Malaysia 2012–for a special reality show aptly titled Takeover, aired on Astro Ria.
Mizz Nina began her inaugural American tour on the road in California, visiting stations like KCAQ, KKUU, Latino 96.3 and KJLH, to name a few, before flying to Las Vegas to meet with programme directors and club DJs. She then headed to Los Angeles to attend The Grammy Radio Room, where she was interviewed by CNN India, and also got to mingle with Grammy Award nominees past and present. Following her California road tour, Mizz Nina and her team proceeded to Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, Miami and New York. In the Big Apple, she was given the opportunity to co-host a special episode of The MTV Iggy Show (a division of MTV Networks International) as a guest on the streets of Times Square. The indefatigable pop singer then returned to Malaysia a month later to headline hitz.fm’s 15th Birthday Invasion at Stadium Putra in Bukit Jalil in February.
With all these accomplishments done and dusted, the wheels of success continue to turn for Mizz Nina with the arrival of her sophomore album. Her path as an artist is looking to be an exhilarating one for not only her fans and listeners, but also for the high-spirited and determined talent herself. Over the years, she has proven that her prodigious wheels have never stoppe d turning–even when it seemed like she was on hiatus. Who knows what else the future has in store for this multifaceted talent as she continues to spread her wings far and wide. For Mizz Nina, life is just beginning.
THERE must have been some point in the past two years when the expression “Bay-baay” just leapt into your head as if from nowhere. The cause of the infection is none other than local indie lass Mizz Nina, who became a global phenomenon after her successful pairing with Colby O’Donis on the monster hit “What You Waiting For”.
These days she rubs shoulders with some of the biggest acts from across the world as one half of Malaysia’s own “Indie Power Couple” after getting hitched to Hujan’s front man, Noh.
In a recent interview, she sportingly made some revelations:
Tell us a dirty secret about yourself or the band
I have an addiction problem. I am addicted to bubble tea.
If you were a superhero, what sort of super powers would you have and what would you champion?
I want to have super kung fu fighting skills, control over technology, the ability to heal and time travel. I would want to stop human trafficking all over the world and fight crime.
Which local musicians in your country do you most admire and why?
I admire my husband and his band Hujan, their musical style and the way they became zero to hero. They worked their way up and remain grounded. I also admire and respect Yuna, for she is such an amazing and talented artist, who is doing big things internationally. I love her voice and she is making Malaysia known to the world.
You’ve been asked to pose nude for a magazine and this is your best chance to gain publicity. Would you do it?
Not even if you paid me a gazillion!
You look into the crystal ball and see your future. What does it say?
It says, “Get up, get out and go get yourself fit and healthy.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
My single with Colby O’ Donis made almost one million caller ringtone downloads, which was the most downloaded local English song in 2010. And I got married.
What was the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you while performing?
I forgot my lyrics and made it up along the way. Not good. And I once fell out of a bus, head first, onto the red carpet in front of all the media at an event. I made the headlines that night.
Interview courtesy of:
Bite My Music, the organizer of the Bite My Music Global awards, the world’s biggest independent music awards and FMT.com, a news web site providing independent and original perspectives of Malaysian current affairs.
Original article can be found here.