By Dexter Brown:
Â This week Rewind gets funky, fly and fresh as we take a look back at MuchMusic’s Da Mix.
Today,Â MuchMusic, like the American MTV,Â consists mainly of general entertainment programming geared towards teen girls. Both are significantlyÂ different beasts than what they were in the 90s. A quick glance at the programs they aired way back then signified more of an emphasis on actual music programming. The nets’ shows were largely geared towards hard-core music fans, the people who were on the cutting edge to find the latest and greatest trends in music.Â
MuchMusic’sÂ Da MixÂ (1990-2001) was one of those shows. Hitting the airwaves in 1990 asÂ Xtendamix, it broadcast hip-hop, R&B, reggae, and evenÂ house andÂ alternative music according to an earlyÂ promo. By the mid-90s the show cemented itself as the home for urban music in Canada.Â Da MixÂ becameÂ essential for building and sharing homegrown urban talent and to connect fans to what was going on in the industry at home in Canada and elsewhere in the world.Â
The importance of the program may seem lost today asÂ some crazy, colourful graphics and illogical uses of various camera angles (most of which wandered around aimlessly) make it simply look gaudy, like 90s cheese.Â
Regular viewers of the series will no doubtÂ rememberÂ host Master T. Throughout the run of the series he appears to have a lot of fun on air and isÂ genuineÂ and authentic in his presentation. He gels really well with many of his guests on air but by no means was he the perfect VJ. He’d occasionally flub some lines, look at the wrong camera and would at times appear a bit awkward on air, but it wasn’t all negative. It made him look human, like a brother or a good friend you knew that was coming to you through your television set every few days.Â
One of the show’s gimmicks was a piano named Roxie which contained a synthesized female voice and helped Master T host the show. In retrospect, it feels remarkably tacky and that along with the then-shabby Much environment takes away from the show feeling polished.Â
WhileÂ it tried to introduceÂ CanadiansÂ to some urban talent from their own backyard, some of the featuredÂ performers,Â however, were just brutal. In an instance capturedÂ online, Master T asks a homegrownÂ boy band to sing on the spot on his show, and awkwardly they sound just awful. Clearly shaken up Master T tries to play it off throwing to their video which feels like aÂ so bad it’s good, retro-themedÂ Saturday Night LiveÂ music sketch.Â
While that is what it is, you have to remember that MuchMusic’s programs don’t hold up well to the test of time. EvenÂ Much On DemandÂ which left the air a few years ago feels archaic when looking at it today. Also remember that what seems trendy today, like the neon-coloured hair of Rihanna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj will probably look just as dated in years to come.Â
With the network quickly adapting to trends, nearly all of MuchMusic comes across as disposable as a facial tissue. MuchMusic struggles to even look back at itself. When the network turned 25 it did absolutelyÂ nothingÂ to celebrate its milestone. Who could really blame them? For much of the network’s existence it was really rough around the edges and in some ways still is, although it has significantly cleaned up its act.Â Still you can’t help but wonder if Muchmusic’s cleaner minimalist graphics today will look just as dated in the future.Â
SpiritualÂ successors ofÂ Da MixÂ are all split to specific genres and most have been given generic names such asÂ Much Hip-HopÂ andÂ Much R&B.Â Notably those showsÂ no longer use a VJ and are often aired early in the morning. The long-runningÂ RapCityÂ (one of Much’s longest running programs and also aired duringÂ Da Mix‘s era) does have a VJ however, and in its current incarnation it is the closest thing toÂ Da MixÂ in its heyday.Â T-RexxxÂ (Canada’s party animal)Â hosts and does a decent job with the micÂ introducingÂ guests and throwing to videos. The show feels remarkably polished compared toÂ Da MixÂ an even includes a live studio audience as well as someÂ break-dancersÂ and free-style rappers. The cameras aren’t used in any wild, wacky or inventive ways as they often were onÂ Da Mix. You might find that they flow a bit but they aren’t as dramatic as anything from MuchMusic’s past. When IÂ tuned inÂ aÂ syntheticÂ female voice much like Roxie’s could be heard. It was used in a bit of aÂ differentÂ way, by the DJ Jester.Â
While you won’t be able to see much ofÂ Da MixÂ unless you break into MuchMusic’s vault and settle with the few clips left on YouTube, you can still get a hold of some retro urban music on MuchMusic’s digital channel MuchVibe and its showÂ VintageVibeVideoFlow.