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Q&A with Master T

14 April 2011 No Comments

By Samuel Getachew

Former Much Music VJ Tony “Master T” Young was a rare and notable talent on Canadian TV. Growing up in the 1990′s, most of us black immigrant kids had a great excuse to put on Much Music on Channel 29 and watch the coolest VJ spin the hottest songs out there.

From Eminem, the late 2Pac, Shaggy to Janet Jackson and even to the first woman Prime Minister of Canada, Kim Campbell, Master T interviewed them all with zeal, smarts and heart. His style was often relaxed, his questions well informed, and he spun the coolest songs out there.

Ten years after, Lauryn Hill came out of semi retirement to bid him a huge exclusive farewell performance on MuchMusic. Sway caught up with the legend himself via facebook. He talks about family and reflects on the current state of popular culture and media in Canada.

SG: Most of us immigrants owe you a great deal in introducing us to Canada while growing up. Watching you on MuchMusic as Master T was such a memorable experience. Looking back on your years on MuchMusic, was it as memorable for you?

Master T: I feel proud that a lot of immigrants I’ve met over the years embraced what I did on MuchMusic. I think my experience, enabled them to feel like there was something for them to identify with on the Television airwaves.  I’m also grateful to Moses Znaimer and Denise Donlon for letting the cultural content continue on the programs X-tendamix and Da Mix which were just supposed to be urban music video shows.


Presently, I feel as a community, there really isn’t a strong positive reflection of the African Canadian experience on TV.  I had a lot of memorable years on MuchMusic and with the help of my wife Paula and Dalton Higgins, I was able to publish my semi-autobiographical book Much Master T, One Vj’s Journey (ECW Press), which documents a lot of my more memorable interviews and some of the story of my experience immigrating from England to Canada.

Right up until I left MTV, I was blessed to have produced and hosted a show that played black music and reflected our culture in a positive light. I’m grateful to MuchMusic for giving me the opportunity to do that. I am sure the good ratings helped out as well — all due to the many strong passionate fans of both shows.

SG: When you look at TV – MuchMusic, MTV -  what are some of the changes you are seeing that maybe have been rare in the 1990′s?

Master T: The explicit language and sexuality wouldn’t have happened in the late 80′s and 90′s on MuchMusic. Back in the day, rap videos were scrutinized for violence and for being too sexual.  With the content on these channels today, I think they’ve pushed the envelope a little too far. Like I used to, I still inform parents they have to have an understanding as to what their children are reading, playing, watching and experiencing online and guide them accordingly.

Another big thing is, reality based programming is taking the place of actual videos being played, due to the advent of Youtube.  But more importantly, everyone these days as well as in the past wants to be a star and many avenues are now available for people to put themselves out there such as, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. One can be seen and heard thru many avenues rather than waiting to be told who the next big thing is according to record labels, Muchmusic or MTV.

If we look at the media currently, advertisers are finally realizing that other ethnic groups actually bank, drink beer, use beauty products, drive cars etc and the numbers seemed to have gone up in terms of visual representation in TV ads even more so since President Obama was elected.  I just wish the major networks would also start to reflect ethnic diversity on newscasts and television programs. I understand when they seem to be appealing to a particular ethnic groups for economic reasons. I wish they would look at the diversity of this country, its changing visual fabric and be a lot more inclusive of the various cultures of Canada.

SG: What are you up to these days?

Master T: My wife and I are currently producing a new urban show called ‘Break It Down’ for Aux TV Channel 107 on Rogers.  The show features myself and 3 fresh new hosts capturing some of the great underground music and content driven interviews that we all long to see on television.  The show will air in May.

We’re also very proud to be working on a project my wife created for the TDSB at Harbord Collegiate Institute, called “School Life” whereby we work directly with two media classes to produce 4 original songs for a “School Life EP” accompanied by “The Making of School Life DVD” about teenagers and their school Life.  The topics include racism, self esteem, cyber space, and the experience of being a high school student. They are all expected to be released in the next few months.

SG: If any of your kids were looking at following in your footsteps, would you encourage them to do so?

Master T: Well, both my sons are very talented and have worked with my wife and I on several musical projects, have appeared on TV and have their own music videos. Most of these projects were borne out of their desire to create something media based and I definitely support that.  My older son’s predominant interest is in Basketball right now as he has grown past me… 6’3″ at the age of 13 and my 7 year old is extremely creative, both in music and in the arts. When he is asked “what would you like to be in the future”, he responds by saying “I am an ARTIST, mostly abstracts, and a soccer player!” I encourage all their interests and would be very proud if they seriously followed in my footsteps on any level in the future.

SG: Any parting words?

Master T: At the moment, I feel an urgent need for us as a people to come together and properly claim what is ours through unification, education and tolerance, even among our own race.  So much of what has been built up on our backs is currently being navigated by other passionate cultures that are lovers of the urban experience, capitalizing on our creative talents, as we sit by and voice our opinions and even support.

It is unfortunate that we do not actually take the bull by the horns and control our own cultural properties. I wonder if this is because we don’t have the credentials to access the funding, or have the power to raise the seed money to do so. I must also wonder if we are just getting pushed out of the system because of a few bad apples and their negative track records as well; ageism may also come in play here as well.

All I know is, the time for us is right now, to make a move and claim what is truly ours.

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