By Dexter Brown:
This week Rewind gets funky, fly and fresh as we take a look back at MuchMusic’s Da Mix.
Today, MuchMusic, like the American MTV, consists mainly of general entertainment programming geared towards teen girls. Both are significantly 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.
MuchMusic’s Da Mix (1990-2001) was one of those shows. Hitting the airwaves in 1990 as Xtendamix, it broadcast hip-hop, R&B, reggae, and even house and alternative music according to an early promo. By the mid-90s the show cemented itself as the home for urban music in Canada. Da Mix became 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.
The importance of the program may seem lost today as 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.
Regular viewers of the series will no doubt remember host Master T. Throughout the run of the series he appears to have a lot of fun on air and is genuine 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.
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.
While it tried to introduce Canadians to some urban talent from their own backyard, some of the featured performers, however, were just brutal. In an instance captured online, Master T asks a homegrown 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 a so bad it’s good, retro-themed Saturday Night Live music sketch.
While that is what it is, you have to remember that MuchMusic’s programs don’t hold up well to the test of time. Even Much On Demand 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.
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 absolutely nothing 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. Still you can’t help but wonder if Muchmusic’s cleaner minimalist graphics today will look just as dated in the future.
Spiritual successors of Da Mix are all split to specific genres and most have been given generic names such as Much Hip-Hop and Much R&B. Notably those shows no longer use a VJ and are often aired early in the morning. The long-running RapCity (one of Much’s longest running programs and also aired during Da Mix‘s era) does have a VJ however, and in its current incarnation it is the closest thing to Da Mix in its heyday. T-Rexxx (Canada’s party animal) hosts and does a decent job with the mic introducing guests and throwing to videos. The show feels remarkably polished compared to Da Mix an even includes a live studio audience as well as some break-dancers and free-style rappers. The cameras aren’t used in any wild, wacky or inventive ways as they often were on Da Mix. You might find that they flow a bit but they aren’t as dramatic as anything from MuchMusic’s past. When I tuned in a synthetic female voice much like Roxie’s could be heard. It was used in a bit of a different way, by the DJ Jester.
While you won’t be able to see much of Da Mix 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 show VintageVibeVideoFlow.