Monday, September 14, 2009
Today’s interview feature is with both friend and peer, Jennifer aka toki aka TOKiMONSTA. She’s known most notably as the first lady of Brainfeeder (Flying Lotus’ “squad” consisting of artists such as Samiyam, Ras G, Gas Lamp Killer, Mono/Poly, Teebs, Lorn, etc.) and is best known for her infectious melodies and creative glitch use. She’s definitely one to watch and it’s exciting to see her make moves in the LA scene.
State Ya' Name, gangsta:
TOKiMONSTA aka toki aka Jennifer Lee
What hood do you represent?
Race/color/ethnicity all have no bearing on making great music, but to finally clarify to the people...what nationality are you?
What inspired you to start making Hip-hop? A form a music which is traditionally portrayed by the media as misogynistic towards women:
When you have an understanding for how the culture is, men show the biggest support for females that can hold their own. Hip-hop has this really magnetic essence that's raw and yet it maintains this nonchalant artistic integrity—I want to use my musicality to be apart of this.
Seeing as you're from the South Bay area, does your location factor into your creativity? Meaning, does the city you live in influence your music at all?
Well, the general South Bay area has been the home of many dope hip hop artists, but there's not much going on in Torrance. I think it's the lack thereof that has forced me to reach out and gain creativity from other areas---not just LA, but the world.
Does identifying as a Korean-American, play a significant role in your life as an artist? Being Korean myself, I remember being forced into piano lessons and hating music when I was young. Have you experienced much of the same?
The 10 years of retarded classical piano lessons actually turned out to be one of the best things I was ever forced to endure. Being K-A is probably the driving force behind my mentality towards my music. Without trying to generalize, the Korean culture is very pride-based and we tend to feel the need to prove ourselves to the rest of the world—disprove of any doubts regarding what we are capable of. I think that’s what happens after centuries of oppression and control by outside forces. I will never be able to shake the feeling that I need to affirm that I'm a legit producer and not just a gimmick.
What it is like trying to do music full time? Do you get pressure from your parents at all (as typical Asian parents expect you to graduate from college and have a flourishing career as a dr. or lawyer) to just get a day job and do music for fun? What would you say to those who look to you as inspiration? Meaning, if there's another Korean-American female who wants to pursue what you do, what would you say to her?
My family was tripping in the beginning, but now they are fully supportive of my music. Especially since they know that I've tried the white collar work route—working 10 hour salaried corporate positions—and it just wasn't cracking for me. I have to admit the money was nice, but now I'm 100% in love with what I do. If there's anyone of any nationality that has a passion they want to pursue, just do it. It's cliché, but don't live your life wondering, "What if?" If you fail, you will make due with your losses and move on with life as it would've been.... but you will know you tried.
As a gearhead myself, what are you using to make your music?
Without getting too into specifics: PC for production, Mac for live performances, vinyl, an array of diff midi controllers (pads, keyboards, effects), mixer, portable digital condenser mic for real life sampling, my clarinet, piano, these 2 weird wooden wind instruments, SP404, and anything I can bang on for percussion.
I've recently noticed that you're repping the Brainfeeder crew. How did you come to hook up with Flying Lotus and co.?
I guess it was just the course of nature bringing like-minded people together. I didn't see it coming though. It's made a big impact in a short period of time and I'm really appreciative of everyone.
What does it feel like to get recognized in such a short amount of time? Do you get recognized walking down the street these days?
HA. Most people still have a hard time grasping that I make beats. Also, LA is flooded with talented people. You can go anywhere and see your favorite emcee/producer/dj just floating around in the crowd—If you even know what they actually look like.
Now that you have the outlet, when should we expect a full length TOKiMONSTA LP?
I can't say I know exactly when, but I'm hoping sometime early next year. I have a few other things coming out in the meantime, but I realize none of these are stateside. So, I may do a private press/digital release in the meantime
I saw that you've also done tracks (in FlyLo fashion) for local LA rappers such as Surrilla and Dumbfoundead, but do you differentiate what beats become TOKi tracks and which ones become rap beats?
To be honest, I don't work with emcees lately because of the nature of my music. Surrilla and Dumb are great friends of mine, so I've made exceptions to contribute to their body of work. The music I contribute to emcees is different than my personal instrumental work--it's more boom bappy. I haven't grown out of that style either.. I go back here and there. I have musical ADD.
Do you have any other passions other than music?
I love to cook and bake. I'm a foodie in the least pretentious sense of the word. Also, I draw and paint--which is my refuge from my occasional music blocks. In addition to all that, I'm big on fashion. I think I check more fashion blogs than music—what can I say? Fashion and shopping is another creative outlet.