Vancouver-based musician MA$$ANK unpacks her creative process and talks what’s next.
Ana Maria Caicedo // Arts & Culture Editor
Photo by Ant
When I first heard MA$$ANK’s music, I thought—Damn, she makes orgasm noises sound amazing. Her raps are peppered with moans, ad-libbed between call-out lyrics that are performed with a cool, ominous anger.
“I just think it’s funny sometimes singing about sex,” she said to me. We’re sitting on the same side of a metal bench in South Granville just outside of Zebraclub, where she works. MA$$ANK’s unflinching discussion of sex, and all the messy emotions that come with it, is what first hooked me on her music. Her raps brim with the raw angst and bitterness that emerge fresh from a heartbreak. At the same time though, there’s something humorous about her music—her moans and groans feel like a wink reminding me to not take the anger so seriously.
In person, she’s just as cheeky. When I told her how much I loved the orgasm ad-libs, she let out a very extra laugh. “I’m glad you do,” she exclaimed, “‘cause honestly everyone is so serious, I’m just like ‘let me just throw in a little bit of this!’ I guess it kind of throws off some people, I don’t know. But I see that they like it, so I’m like alright, just be real. It’s okay to be funny, you don’t have to take life so seriously.”
MA$$ANK, real name Michelle Masanque, started playing with FL studio at 14 in Brunei. At 16, she moved to BC alone to live with her aunt in Richmond, leaving her parents and life in Brunei behind. Three years later, at 19, rapper Casta Troy (who was dating her friend at the time) asked her to perform with him. Not too long after, Vancouver musician Tom Whalen saw her perform and booked her to open for other bands.
After hearing an interview with Grimes where she describes making genesis on GarageBand, Masanque, now 21, started experimenting with making her own beats on the software. “I felt like a caveman, I’m like, ‘Woah! I didn’t know they had this here,’” she laughed. “Ever since then I was like, you can make music any way you want! It doesn’t have to be a certain way, it doesn’t have to rhyme. You just have to say shit, and it’ll sound beautiful.”
Masanque’s SoundCloud consists of an assortment of noisy raps and low-fi indie tunes. Although they’re two totally different styles of music, somehow they’re coherent, and stylistically they seem to come from the place. “COLLECT UR MANS” is my favourite—a diss song that roasts the fuckboy archetype masterfully. “I always hear people—at least my straight friends, where they talk about boys, and guy is always so musty and greasy,” she said, referring to the song’s inspiration, “and I’m just like, this is nasty!”
Another stand-out is “have you ever fallen in love with a tinder date,” a song inspired by the feeling of unrequited love after a tinder date ghosted.
“I met this person once, and I thought they were really cool, so we got a few drinks and stuff,” she recalled. “[The song] was basically about our date and how it went so well, and then after that, they just ghosted me! And then I saw them again, in person—we just bumped into each other. They’re like, ‘yeah let’s hangout!’ and I’m like, ‘okay!’, you know, being a dumb bitch. Of course I hit them up,” Masanque lamented. “Never again. I’m not doing that again. I learned, I have standards now.”
Despite her natural proficiency at rapping, Masanque confessed it’s something she’s stepping away from for now in favour of exploring another musical headspace. “I actually don’t really wanna’ rap anymore. When I did it, it was a lot of angry, sad songs and I was in a really dark time. It really matched the vibes of what I was going through. I can’t really see myself doing that with other feelings that I wanna portray,” she explained. “Rapping makes me feel like I’m gonna like stomp on some shit, you know—that’s why, and I wanna let go of that. I wanna be a little softer.”
Her latest song “anthill”, a collaboration with her friend filipinobody, is a downbeat, hazy love song that comes slightly closer to the kind of sound she’s interested in making now—a sound she describes as “bubblegum”, “industrial”, and “low-key harsh noise”.
She tells me she’s been “researching” Madonna, aka listening to “Open Your Heart” on repeat. “I like how in the 80’s they’re kind of idealizing love a lot, and even though the lyrics are so corny, it’s so nice to sing it out loud,” she mused. “Love is such a hard thing for me, honestly. Just being open with that feeling. Sometimes I still cringe—like the ‘L’ word… oh my god I just cannot. So I’ve been trying to study. I’m like okay, how do I really feel, you know? How do I make this direct as shit but also a little funky and you can dance to it. I wanna do that. I wanna try that.”
Masanque estimates she’ll have new music out by November. Although I’m crushed she’s not going to be making raps, I’m nevertheless excited to hear how her current musical wanderings and experimentations materialize.
Listen to MA$$ANK’s music at soundcloud.com/michellecm and find her on instagram under @michellewhat