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Asa is a Finnish rapper whose often philosophical and musically wide-ranging style of alternative rap proved both critically and commercially successful in his homeland beginning in 2005 with his second album, Leijonaa Metsästän. Born Matti Salo in 1980 and hailing from Helsinki, he made his solo album debut in 2001 with Punainen Tiili. Released on Rähinä Records in association with Warner Music, Punainen Tiili is credited to his former moniker, Avain, and is fairly straightforward relative to his later work. The album spawned the singles "Roihuvuori" and "Yhdes Iltaan." Several years passed before he returned with his second album, this time credited to Asa. Released on the independent label Fried Records, Leijonaa Metsästän (2005) was a tremendous success despite its esoteric style, peaking at number three on the Finnish albums chart and spawning the singles "Leijonaa Metsästän" and "Hidastaa." The follow-up album, Terveisiä Kaaoksesta (2006), was even more esoteric, delving deeply into philosophical issues and featuring an abundance of live instrumentation. It reached the Top Ten despite signaling a sharp drop-off in the rapper's mainstream popularity. After releasing the stop-gap promotional mixtape Foetida (2007) for free on the Internet, Asa released his fourth album, Loppuasukas (2008), in association with his own Roihis Musica. Another deeply philosophical and musically wide-ranging album featuring a large cast of instrumentalists, Loppuasukas was a greater success than its predecessor, returning the rapper to the Top Five of the Finnish albums chart and garnering considerable critical acclaim. The follow-up album, Via Karelia, credited this time to Asa & Toverit and released on the Aseistakieltäytyjäliitto label, was similarly popular, reaching the Top Five and spawning the single "Pirii Ja Aseit." His consistent release schedule continued through the early 2000s, and included the albums Jou Jou (2011), Foetida: Use Your Illusion III (2012), and Rapsodia (2013), all issued through Roihis.
© Jason Birchmeier /TiVo
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