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Fenaxiz - conducted by Hugo Lunny  

Fenaxiz Interview

July 2006

The Toronto scene is arguably Canada's most prominent, with many artists gaining the attention and respect of more than just Canada itself. Though Swollen Members have outsold many, Toronto seems to have a scene where Hip Hop is more so supported than further West.

As a Filipino in rap, and a Canadian, Fenaxiz faces a number of challenges and hurdles in order to succeed how he aims to. But, after independently releasing "The Audiobiography," Fenaxiz is poised to release "The Strongest Link" mix CD, and even has a cameo in the upcoming film "From Wimp To Pimp," he's well on his way.

MVRemix: First and foremost, obviously the question has to be why "Fenaxiz" as a moniker?

Fenaxiz: [laughs] Well, there's two explanations really… You split "Fenaxiz" up into "fenax iz" so it's defining who I am. When I first was trying to come up with a name for myself when I started rhyming, I realized that no word could describe me except for a word I made up myself. So it's pretty Zen like that. But as how I came up with FenaxiZ? I took a page from the movie Mrs. Doubtfire and looked around the room to combine words until i had "fenax"

MVRemix: What's your first memory of Hip Hop?

Fenaxiz: [laughs] Nice question, really making me think back. I remember getting Onyx "Bacdafucup" taped off a friend and putting it in the deck for the first time... and, well, you know how the intro goes. Soon as that came on I was running to turn it off 'cause my mom ain't ever heard stuff like that... Also first time some kid put me on to The Chronic album or first time I heard the "Torture" skit off “36 Chambers” and all the kids in elementary were just rewinding it over and over.

MVRemix: For those who don't know you, introduce yourself to the world...

Fenaxiz: I like to think my music speaks for itself and for me so people reading this should hit up and check out my tracks before reading what I gotta say... Aight, y'all heard enough? Basically I'm an emcee from East Toronto of Filipino-descent. I've dropped two albums, done my rounds in the local scene, still trying to reach more ears, you know, the usual stuff. I like to think I approach my music with sincerity and I just want other people to recognize that, no matter who they are.

MVRemix: How do you feel Filipinos, and Asians in general are perceived in Hip Hop?

Fenaxiz: As far as emceeing, we're not perceived at all really I think. Yeah, we have Jin, Mountain Brothers, and a few others, but the rest of us seem to get pigeon-holed in with the ones who have made it. I can't even tell you how many comparisons I've gotten to Jin over the years strictly based off my ethnicity when our music sounds nothing alike. With the other elements of the culture, however, I think we've gained a better acceptance. I don't follow the professional DJ circuit as much as I used to, but Asian DJs are perceived normally as are breakers and graf artists. But with emceeing, Asian artists face a double-standard, it's like if you integrate some of your culture in your rhymes, you're automatically typecast as an Asian MC, but at the same time, you can't - and shouldn't - ignore your heritage. I guess to answer your question; Asian MCs are forced to walk a fine balance while Asians in the other elements have been accepted.

MVRemix: Do you see that changing or remaining, somewhat like white roles within the genre?

Fenaxiz: I see it changing definitely. The Asian community represents a large demographic that simply can't be ignored by the industry. Someone who walks that fine-balance just has to break down the door properly.

MVRemix: What about Canadians? What are your thoughts of the perception of them in the Hip Hop world?

Fenaxiz: Hmmm, do you mean what are Canadians' perception of Asians, or what is the perception of Canadians in hip-hop?

MVRemix: Canadians in Hip Hop...

Fenaxiz: Man, people see Canadians as two extremes. Either we're wannabe-Americans when talking about urban experiences or we're Eskimos in an igloo surrounded by fucking polar bears. It's like, if some Toronto artist is depicting tales of hard life in the ghetto, they're not to be believed since Canada is supposed to be some peaceful prairie. A lot of people are ignorant to the fact that Canada unfortunately has its fair share of crime and knuckleheads. On the other hand, if you're not a wannabe-American, you're strumming on your guitar and singing about outer space, peace, and b-boyism. Nothing wrong with that, but these two extremes are all that people outside of Canada see. They don't understand that Canadians are just some regular folk too who occupy an area between those two extremes.

MVRemix: What makes you different, how do you feel you'll overcome the stereotypes and views typically given of Filipinos and Canadian rappers?

Fenaxiz: It's funny, what makes me different is what would have made me the norm back in the mid 90s. Back then, everybody had their own style of rapping. You had Das EFX with their style and Naughty By Nature with their style, etc. and nobody was trying to follow the public's expectations. Artists were just being themselves and letting that shine through; which is exactly what I'm doing now. But in the current state of hip-hop, everything is so mechanical, commoditized, etc. like it's made in a factory so I guess what makes me different is that I'm just being myself, and that's how I feel I can overcome those said stereotypes. Like, you look at Eminem, he didn't ignore the fact he was white, but at the same time, he didn't use it as a gimmick, he just rapped about his life and what he was going through and put his skills before his ethnicity. That's how he got respected, straight up.

MVRemix: Cool... You've described the "Urban" industry in Canada as "fucked up" - why?

Fenaxiz: Ah man. It's a lot of factors that I could write for hours on. I'll just say, I'm writing a song about that as the outro for my 3rd album in 2007 so people should watch out for that. One thing I'll say though that fucks the urban industry up in Canada is a lack of teamwork between artists although that's slowly changing.

MVRemix: Tell me about "The Strongest Link."

Fenaxiz: It's my sophomore release and actually my first album. I came out with The Audiobiography 3 years ago but that was just an EP. The Strongest Link is my first full length record and it encompasses a wide range of skills, styles, etc. There's something for everyone (to a point, there's no club track for example). It's 16 tracks, mostly produced by me and features some of Toronto's finest artists. I worked with some people I've connected with over the years and it's good to have finally done so. The first single from the album, The Strongest Link (remix) is actually being used in a movie, "From Wimp To Pimp" that's due out in 2007 I think. I made a cameo appearance in it for the concert scene.

MVRemix: About that, how did that cameo come about?

Fenaxiz: One of the artists featured on that very song, Young G.O.D.D, he politics a lot in the industry as he's the host of Sound Junction on 105.5 FM. One day he just called me up, said he met a director who was passing by the radio station, and before you know it, we were scheduled to go to the shoot.

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"Asian artists face a double-standard, it's like if you integrate some of your culture in your rhymes, you're automatically typecast as an Asian MC, but at the same time, you can't - and shouldn't - ignore your heritage."