Asa (real name Matti Salo) is one of the most acknowledged rap lyricists in Finland. He started as Avain (= The Key) before Millennium releasing his first album Punainen tiili (= Red Brick) under this name in 2001. Back in those days the rapper, hailing from Roihuvuori in the eastside of Helsinki, focused on many societal issues, but has since been praised mostly for his poetic and ambiguous lyrics. The strong political message he used to have in the beginning has evolved merely into issues addressing spiritual growth and discussing the human relationship with nature. Asa has always been sparing with publicity and he has justified this by making a point that his songs tell about all the people and the society, so they shouldn’t be personified on his face.
Asa’s discography consists of more than a dozen of albums and a couple of EP releases covering material from the political hip hop of his early years to for example the album Foetida – Use Your Illusion III (2012) deeply inspired by progressive rock music as well as the Love (2015) album, which sampled recordings from the legendary Finnish music label Love Records. He has also released dozens of singles and music videos. Asa records for Helsinki-based Roihis Musica.
The distinguished rapper has been awarded several times during the years. For example, his fifth album Loppuasukas (2008) was honoured with the Teosto prize from the Finnish music copyright association, the Emma Award (equivalent to the Grammy) as the Hip hop, dance or r&b album of the year as well as with two acknowledgments in the Femmagaala. The same year Asa also won four categories in the Funky Awards gala of black rhythm music in Finland, and he is also the most awarded artist in the history of it with as many as 15 wins either as a solo artist or together with the band Jätkäjätkät, which originally started as his live band before evolving into a project of its own. Asa is part of the group and performs his solo material nowadays with a different lineup under the name Asa & Band (later renamed as Asa Bäänd II), partly consisting of same musicians as Jätkäjätkät and led by Rasmus Pailos.
Asa has collaborated with many of the distinguished Finnish rap and reggae artists as well as producers in the industry. These include for example producers DJ Polarsoul, DJPP, DJ Didier, Pelan, LX-Beats and Kim “Kasio” Rantala, and vocalists Puppa J, Raappana, Kube, Davo, Julma-Henri as well as several Rähinä Records artists, such as Fintelligens.
Text: Joonas Kervinen / Funky Finland
Main photo: Olga Poppius
Feature photo: Jukka Schesser