Original Source: Miso Extra is bringing her imagination to life
In Hayao Miyazaki’s 2001 Studio Ghibli anime masterpiece Spirited Away, a plucky ten-year-old girl named Chihiro embarks on a quest to save her family after winding up in a supernatural bathhouse filled with ancient spirits, witches and gods. Across two hours of otherworldly animation, Chihiro grows from surly adolescent into a steely hero before she’s reunited with her parents, newly enlightened.
Japanese animator and Studio Ghibli co-founder, Miyazaki, is often celebrated for his convention-defying female protagonists like Chihiro, and these characters resonated deeply with a young Miso Extra growing up in suburban Buckinghamshire. Born in Hong Kong to a British father and Japanese mother, the London-based rapper, producer and vocalist “connected with” Miyazaki’s leads while finding “a sense of escapism” in the fantastical folklore and storytelling of the Studio Ghibli universe.
MISO EXTRA wears: Shirt: adidas Originals, Dress: Beasha Studios, Shoes: adidas Originals, Earrings: Completed Work
“I love how there are no limitations for the imagination… the world is endless,” she enthuses. In later years, she would return to these movies, finding endless inspiration in Joe Hisaishi’s accompanying compositions, from his FM bells and strings-laden soundscapes to his synth-led theme tunes with jewel-like tones and tactile sonics.
Miso is relaxed and chatty when she dials in from the studio she shares with her friends and collaborators, producers TrickyNDuke. She eagerly traces the footsteps of her musical upbringing: an early education in jazz and blustery Japanese 80s pop ballads, courtesy of her mother’s CD collection, blended with the background hum of UK radio. Her jazz period would eventually lead her to beat makers like J Dilla and MF DOOM, whose fingerprints are all over the choppy beatscapes of Miso’s 2022 single Great Taste, a collaboration with British-Indian vocalist and rapper Nayana IZ, and her sample-heavy cuts Deep Fried (2022) and MSG (2023).
MISO EXTRA wears: Top: adidas Originals x Sporty & Rich, Skirt: Beyond Retro, Shoes: adidas Originals, Belt: Stylist’s own, Earcuff: Zara
The clutch of releases that so far make up Miso’s musical output betray a tendency towards boundary blurring genre-agnosticism where indie, jazz, film soundtracks, hyperpop and hip-hop are all in cahoots. This multi-hyphenate approach translates into a taste for Japanese-language rap adventures (R10, Great Taste), mellifluous R&B singing (Space Junk, 1013), and the use of an ever-expanding toolkit that spans DAW-based production and analogue synths, including her trusted portable OP-1 by Teenage Engineering. “I’m having fun and exploring my creativity. I don’t see it as, ‘This is one hat and this is my next hat.’ It’s just one big hat, mashed together somehow.”
“I’M EXPLORING MY CREATIVITY. I DON’T SEE IT AS, ‘THIS IS ONE HAT AND THIS IS MY NEXT HAT.’ IT’S JUST ONE BIG HAT, MASHED TOGETHER”
Her journey towards becoming a musician unfolded intuitively and gradually over time. “I feel like I’ve always been an artist, but whether or not I wanted to be so public about it has been a gradual process,” Miso explains. She started lifting her ideas off the page during the lockdown of 2020, and the following year she released her debut single, Adventures of TrickyNDuke – an ode to the UK production duo she has worked with for the past four years. Enriched with cheeky wordplay (“Can’t believe it’s not butter/ This love spread like no other”) and lightly peppered with topsy-turvy lo-fi beats, it served as the perfect intro to Miso’s self-described “umami” stew and a gateway into her ‘Misoverse’: “Welcome to an alternate reality/ Open door kinda policy/ Full of peace and musicality.”
MISO EXTRA wears: Shirt: adidas Originals, Dress: Beasha Studios, Hairband (worn as bracelet): Good Squish, Rings: Miso Extra’s own, Shoes: adidas Originals
Miso’s conversational, naturalistic spin on rap has been shaped by her love of cinema and books, and a self-admitted predilection for “crying a lot” while reading. She’s currently obsessed with Physical 100 (“Squid Games in real life”) and we spiritedly bond over our shared love for astute yet easy-to-sink-into fiction, such as Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. Sticking with books, Miso is truly in her happy place as she enthusiastically recaps her latest “cosy” read: Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Japanese author and playwright Toshikazu Kawaguchi. “It’s about a coffee shop where you can travel in time, but anything you do when you go back in time can’t affect the future outcome… it’s a really interesting concept,” she says, gleefully.
MISO EXTRA wears: Shirt: adidas Originals, Dress: Paloma Wool, Shoes: Wales Bonner for adidas Originals, Earrings: Stylist’s own, Hairband (worn as bracelet): Good Squish
Miso is a storyteller at heart. But while many artists construct alter-egos as a way to create dissonance between their public persona and true interior world, for Miso, it’s the opposite. She prefers to reach deep into herself and let her innermost voices guide her artistic practice, allowing for the complexities of her dual heritage to bring her not only creative inspiration, but good fortune; ‘shiawase’ in Japanese.
Now, she hopes to inspire others to connect with their most genuine selves. “I feel like [the Misoverse] will always be a fun and safe space to create authentically for myself and to encourage others to do so as well; to show people they can create without feeling like they have to put themselves in a box,” she explains. When asked what her creative universe will look like in ten years’ time, Miso offers a typically cheeky response: “Ask me that question in ten years.”
MSG is out now via Transgressive Records