MC Flow
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MC Flow

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Abby Schwartz did not move to San Diego with the intention of becoming a hip-hop star.

For one thing, this isn't a city with a vibrant hip-hop community. Plus, she doesn't play an instrument and wasn't trying to get in the music scene at all.

But Schwartz, 30, left hectic New York in 2000 for the more laid-back ways of San Diego. And she has since reinvented herself as MC Flow, an artist who raps about womens issues and politics.

“I've always loved hip-hop, it's the music of our generation” she said. “I went to public school outside Manhattan and it was just part of the culture at the time.”

Over the last three years, Schwartz has been putting on lively, funky shows with fellow female band members Taylor-Tay, Lauren DeRose and dancer extraordinaire GG. For the second year in a row, the group is nominated for a San Diego Music Award.

Whether or not she wins (she'll find out at the show tomorrow), Schwartz is happy that San Diegans appreciate female-fronted hip-hop. Two other women, Addiquit and Miki Vale, were also nominated in the traditionally male-heavy hip-hop category.

“The hip-hop scene is not as big as the rock scene here,” Schwartz said. “So, we're all supportive of each other, which is much better than having catty girls fighting with each other.”

It turns out, though, that Schwartz is also being embraced by the indie and coffeehouse scenes. She regularly performs at the Casbah and she's collaborating with singer-songwriter Jason Mraz.

“There's a very wide spectrum of people at my shows,” she said.

And those shows are getting more and more high-profile.

Because Schwartz, a Jewish girl from White Plains, N.Y., is a powerful and talented rapper, she's earned enough credibility to get opening slots for national acts like Clipse and Yo Majesty.

“If you told me back then that this is what I would be doing, I would have laughed in your face,” she said.

Schwartz left the East Coast to study holistic medicine at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in Mission Valley. It was a new path she wanted to try after working in Manhattan as a writer.

But the Tufts University graduate has always loved language. And even though she was learning new things about health and science, she kept gravitating toward words.

Schwartz immediately found herself in the spoken-word community at such local coffeehouses as Claire de Lune. Her pieces were powerful and funny and she began getting fans early on.

“Writing is empowering to me,” she said.

Writing was also therapeutic. Schwartz was recovering from an eating disorder and writing about body image and women's issues helped her through that time.

The spoken word turned into a music act after Schwartz moved into a house full of musicians. Just for fun, the friends would perform beats and play riffs behind her lyrics, but they liked the way it all sounded together.

And MC Flow was born.

She decided holistic medicine was not for her. Schwartz now works as a dog walker and pet-sitter.

But she says MC Flow takes up most of her free time.

Over the last three years, Schwartz has made lots of demo tapes and singles, which she sells or passes out for free at shows.

Her first album is in the works and is scheduled to be released in the next few months.

“I love what I'm doing,” she said. “And I figure this is the time for me to make it or break it.”

___

MUSICIAN: Hip-hop artist Abby Schwartz, aka MC FlowAGE: 30

WEB SITE: www.myspace.com/mcflow

AWARDS: Two-time San Diego Music Awards nominee for Best Hip-Hop. (The winner will be announced at tomorrow's ceremony.)

KEY QUOTES: “When people first see me on stage, I get a lot of weird looks. They don't believe I'm going to rap and I usually have to win them over.”
- The Union Tribune, San Diego


Hip-hop artist MC Flow -- a.k.a. Abby Schwartz -- raps about politics and women's issues. She grew up in New York City and moved to San Diego in 2000 at the age of 30 to study holistic medicine at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in Mission Valley. "I left my master's program to go into treatment for anorexia," she says. "Through the process of healing and empowering myself, I found my voice and began writing spoken word and performance pieces based on issues surrounding women and body image."

She started her MC career performing open-mike nights at coffeehouses like Claire de Lune and Lestat's. "When I first began, I joined a networking group called the Community," she says, "and my first shows were with that group of artists. We get together regularly to share demos, talk about hip-hop, and listen to music." MC Flow is frequently joined onstage by fellow performers Lauren DeRose, Taylor-Tay, and dancer G.G. Schwartz, and she's working on new music with singer-songwriter Jason Mraz, with her first album planned for release later this year.

Though she recently won a 2007 San Diego Music Award for Best Hip-Hop, she says rapping doesn't yet pay her bills. "I work as a dog-walker and pet-sitter, and I love my job. It provides me with flexibility to do shows, and I walk around all day listening to my iPod. If you see a woman walking dogs through Balboa Park and rapping away on high volume, it's probably me." MC Flow appears October 27 at Static Lounge on Broadway.

WHAT'S IN YOUR CD PLAYER?

1. M.I.A., Kala ("One of the most exciting female artists on the scene. I love this album because it is unique, political, and full of crazy beats that make you want to get up and dance.")

2. Kanye West, Graduation ("I appreciate its positivity and playfulness, and I love to blast it in my car while I'm rolling down the five.")

3. Brandi Carlile, The Story ("Her voice is incredible, and her lyrics are so heartfelt that you can't help but get lost in this album.")

4. Joshua Radin, We Were Here ("This is romantic, mellow folk-rock -- perfect for make-out sessions.")

5. Pema Chodron, Bodhisattva Mind ("An audio-book series from American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron about the pursuit of ending suffering -- not only for oneself, but for all beings.")

DESERT-ISLAND DVDs?

1. Tupac: Resurrection ("An incredible documentary about Tupac's life and passions.")

2. Stealing Beauty ("Beautiful film about an American girl spending the summer in Italy that reminds me of living in Florence during my college years.")

3. Zoolander ("Poses the most important question in life: Have you ever wondered if there was more to life other than being really, really, ridiculously good looking?")

4. Da Ali G Show: Season One ("Nothing makes me laugh harder.")

FAVORITE LOCAL HANGOUT SPOTS?

1. The Rubber Rose, North Park: "This is San Diego's only female-owned sexuality boutique and pretty much my favorite place in San Diego. The owners, Lea and Carly, have great taste in merchandise and throw great parties and music shows in the gallery."

2. The Turf Club, Golden Hill: "This is one of my favorite spots in my 'hood. Strong drinks, cheap food, and always a hella good time."

3. Ono Sushi, Hillcrest: "I'm a sushi lover through and through, and Ono is my favorite sushi spot in town. It's also home to my favorite drink, the Ono-tini. I get a few of those in me, and a good night is pretty much guaranteed."

WILDEST THING DONE WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE?

"My friends and I were celebrating my 30th birthday down in Mexico, and I was dared to make an appearance at the party wearing nothing but my birthday suit and a birthday crown. I did it, and I wasn't even that drunk."

IF YOU COULD LUNCH WITH ANYONE, IT'D BE...

"Rick Rubin, so I could ask him to produce my first full-length album."

KANYE OR 50 CENT?

"Oh, that's easy: Kanye, 100 percent! I think he's the better rapper, and I appreciate his outspokenness on political and social issues."

WORST JOB YOU'VE EVER HAD?

"Selling shoes at an upscale boutique in Cambridge, Massachusetts, one summer while I was in college. First, any job involving feet is no fun. Second, any job involving rich women asking you to run up and down the stairs a hundred times is no fun. The lowest moment was when we had a flood in the basement, where all the shoes were stored -- we had to go downstairs, change into giant rain boots, and wade through the water to get the clients' shoes. Then we were expected to come back upstairs and act as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Not a good day at the office."

BIGGEST POLITICAL CONCERN?

"Definitely the upcoming presidential election and the importance of getting a Democrat into office. On a more specific note, I have to stress the importance of supporting gay marriage, the way Mayor Jerry Sanders recently did. I don't think that our government has the right to decide which love-relationships are valid and which are not." - The San Diego Reader


MC Flow brought home the “Best Hip Hop” Award at the 2007 San Diego Music Awards.

Alias: Flow

Age: 30

Birthplace: New York , NY

Label: unsigned

Style or who do you sound like: Witty/experimental hip-hop w/ a feminist twist

Most Recognized Song: “Def Perception”

Favorite happy hour: Any place you're treating…

Favorite hang-out: The Rubber Rose ( North Park )

Best place for live music in San Diego : The Casbah

Favorite Cocktail: Ono-tini at Ono sushi

Something only a local would know about San Diego : The route to Black's Beach…

So, what's going on in the world of MC Flow right now?

A lot! We are wrapping up the recording of our album at SDRL ( Stereo Disguise Recording Laboratories) and are really excited to get it out. We are in the mixing and mastering phase, and simultaneously working on the artwork for the album, and other final details. We just started talking to a local videographer about doing our first real music video, so I'm very excited about that. All in all, things are busy, but good!

How's the SD scene treating you lately?

Ah, the scene…There is always a mixed response to us and what we do! Some people love us, and some people think we are not quite “hip-hop” enough to embrace the genre. There was a backlash to us winning the Best Hip-Hop category at the SD Music Awards in September because some members of the local music scene didn't think we were hip-hop enough, but the category was based on votes, so I guess some of our fans disagreed! Overall, the whole experience taught me a big lesson, and that is “don't care so much about what ‘the scene' thinks – just continue to make music that fuels your soul and makes you feel good.” It's impossible to make everyone happy!

Where does your original style come from? Influences?

My style comes from my love of words and wordplay, and my background in spoken-word/performance poetry. I guess it also comes from my sense of humor, and my attempts to not take myself or the music too seriously. I've been most influenced by old-school hip-hop, because that's what I listened to growing up, as well as the new wave of British hip-hop/grime artists that have invaded the US in recent years. Listening to Mike Skinner (The Streets) rap about life in London made me want to pick up the mic and rap. But I have many influences -- Tribe Called Quest, Tupac, MIA, Peaches, Talib Kweli, the Beastie Boys, Ani DiFranco, and more.

What do you write about in your songs?

I rap about all sorts of topics, from society's unrealistic standards of beauty (“Beautyfaux”) to drug addiction (“Carousel”) to my own personal experiences growing up in New York and falling in love with hip-hop (“You Haven't Changed”). The most recent song I wrote is called “Boxes and Squares” and it's a response to all the critics who say I'm not “hip-hop” enough to be a rapper. It challenges the question of what hip-hop is at this point, and who has the right to say what does and does not fit into musical genres and labels.

Why should anyone listen to MC Flow?

Because the music is fun and different. (hard question!)

Who would you most want to collaborate with?

Lupe Fiasco or Peaches.


Where's the best venue to perform at in San Diego ?

I love the Casbah. It's got everything – a small stage that keeps you close to the crowd, a cool smoking patio with planes roaring overhead, pool tables in the back…I always enjoy playing shows there.

Groupies?

Ah, MySpace brings groupies to a whole new level…

What can we look forward to in 2008?

A brand new MC Flow CD, a crazy CD release party, and undoubtedly many more fantastic stage outfits from group dancer, GG.

Where can I check out MC Flow on the web?

www.myspace.com/mcflow

Upcoming Shows?

Please check our website or myspace profile for all upcoming events.

What's in your playlist right now?

Jay-Z American Gangster

Tegan and Sara The Con

M.I.A. Kala

Rogue Wave Asleep at Heaven's Gate

New Year Resolutions?

* Write as many new songs as possible
* Do West Coast and East Coast tours in 2008
* Learn to play guitar (I've been saying I'm going to do it for years…)

Do you have a day time job?

Yes, I have the best day job in the world – I'm a dog walker and pet-sitter, so I hang out with furry creatures all day long. I'm also studying canine massage.

Any shout outs or last words?

Don't forget the importance of supporting local musicians! I think that San Diego gets a bad rap sometimes for not having as strong a music scene as LA, but there are a lot of great bands and performers here. The hip-hop community especially is extremely under-publicized and there are a lot of really talented artists in this town. MySpace is a an incredible vehicle for finding people in San Diego who are working hard, making music, and playing shows, so take the time to seek out local artists and get active in your music and arts community!

- Happy Hour Magazine, San Diego


Discography

2008 -- "Incredible" LP
2007 -- Track "Def Perception" included in "17th Annual San Diego Music Awards" compilation CD
2007 -- Valentine demo
2006 -- MC Flow demo

Tracks "You Haven't Changed", "Incredible", "Carousel", "Boxes & Squares" and "Def Perception" have received airplay on FM 94/9.

Photos

Bio

MC Flow is a quick-witted, rhyme-spittin', female emcee from San Diego, California. Originally from New York, Flow moved out West in 2000, and quickly made a name for herself as a feisty, female lyricist with controversial lyrics and an engaging live show. In 2007, she won a San Diego Music Award in the "Best Hip-Hop" category and in April 2008, just released her debut album, "Incredible", a project that combines booty shakin' beats with the rapid-fire politically charged rhymes she is known for. Nothing is off limits for MC Flow -- whether she is rapping about pop-culture, equal rights, or the challenges of being a female rapper, she does so with a fierceness and ingenuity all her own.

MC Flow recently won hip-hop honors again, taking home two awards for “Best Hip-Hop” and “Best Hip-Hop Album” at the 2008 San Diego Music Awards. But the force that is MC Flow is something that must be experienced live to be fully understood! MC Flow is backed by producer Taylor-Tay, fly-girl/dancer GG, and turntablist DJ Rob Fayder. The band has opened for hip-hop superstars, T.I. and Clipse, as well as up-and-coming artists such as Yo Majesty, Jeffree Star, and Grand Ole Party. Flow and her band mates can also be heard singing back-up on two tracks ("I'm Yours" and "Make It Mine") off Jason Mraz's 2008 release, "We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things."

For more information, please visit MC Flow’s home on MySpace, at www.myspace.com/mcflow.