Exclusive: TOKiMONSTA Talks Keeping Up With Boys Before Half Shadows Album Release Party

Tonight (April 9) producer TOKiMONSTA (born Jennifer Lee) brings her electronica-infused, vintage-inspired sounds to the Music Hall of Williamsburg to celebrate the debut of her latest album, Half Shadows (listen to the full album here). VIBE sat down with the West Coast artist for a quick sec to talk about her music, style and how she keeps up with the boys in her genre.

VIBE: Describe your music.
TOKiMONSTA: It’s rhythmic. It's thinking music.

Where did get the name TOKiMONSTA from?
'Toki' means rabbit in Korean, and ‘monsta’ with an ‘a’ was just a silly way to write monster. Then it just culminated into my artist name after being an iChat/AOL screen name back in the day.

Describe your personal style?
It just depends on how I’m feeling. It’s kind of eccentric, but I restrain a little bit.

Would you ever consider doing fashion collaboration with a retail brand? Any stores you would prefer to work with in particular?
It would have to be with something that I like. There’s a lot of smaller brands that I’d want to work with like Dimepiece LA, Love+Made or Obey. You know, things I grew up with.

Growing up South of L.A., what’s your favorite spot to...
...grab a bite? Pollo A La Brasa. It’s this Japanese owned Brazilian rotisserie chicken place, and I’ll go there once a week. I like picking up clothes when I travel.
...drink? In Koreatown. Low End Theory.

What’s the craziest piece of fan mail you’ve received?
There’s no fan mail, because no one mails anything anymore. It’s more like fan social media. For instance, I had a free album release party in L.A. and some people were really upset because they had to go pick up tickets there. They thought it was all my idea, and tweeted ‘that’s pretentious’ or ‘lazy’. And I’m just like, ‘I didn’t come up with this?’

Being a woman in a predominantly male genre, what’s your secret to ‘keeping up with the boys’?
Making sure you have your own original ideas and skills. If you try to fall back on the idea that you’re a girl, no one will ever really respect you. You have to really know what you’re doing.

Tell us about your new album Half Shadows. What’s the theme behind its content and music?
The album title itself comes from a Haruki Murakami book ‘Kafka on the Shore’, which is about this idea that the characters have translucent, light-colored shadows because they live half in reality, half in this other realm. I really ran with that whole concept of being pseudo-spiritual; a little bit more surreal as well as having this aesthetic of being very current. It has a fun, but weird, vibe.

Who came up with the concept for the album’s cover art?
It was a friend of mine, Christopher Chan. He actually was the person who got me into producing, though he never continued producing himself. Now everything’s kind of come full circle where he’ll do all my album art. He’s also a graphic designer for Nike Running.

Tell us about the launch party tomorrow night? Why did you choose to celebrate in Brooklyn over Manhattan?
I guess I just like the vibe of Brooklyn, and the venue. I really like the Music Hall in Williamsburg – it’s a good set up. It’s nice and big without being really too big, and the sound is usually good there. In Manhattan, the venues are either really big or really small.

tokimonsta album release party

Festival season is coming up. Any major plans/performances in the future?
I’m playing a bunch of them. I’m not playing Coachella this year, but I’m just going to go and partake. I’m playing at Forecastle [Festival]…that’s the only one I can remember. I’m playing outside the country a lot; I’ll be in Austrailia, Asia, and I’m playing a festival in New Mexico, which I’m pretty stoked for.

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Issa Rae Is Now Co-Owner Of A Natural Hair-Care Brand

Issa Rae is expanding into the world of natural hair care. The Insecure creator and star became the co-owner and face of Sienna Natural, a vegan product line for textured hair.

Rae partnered with Sienna Naturals CEO Hannah Diop to rebrand the company. “I think hair has always been part of my identity,” Rae told Allure. “[Even my] debut was a big chop that I did for Awkward Black Girl.”

Rae’s interest in the natural haircare industry was peaked after watching Diop’s “journey,” in products creation. “I’d been watching Hannah's journey for a while, seeing her developing these products. I got interested in the natural, organic side of hair care. I felt like this was a great opportunity to partner up — not to mention obviously loving what the products did for my own hair.”

Sienna Naturals products are made from “lightweight natural ingredients free from synthetics, harsh chemicals” and “heavy oils.”

The product line includes a Salon in a Box collection for $75, H.A.P.I. Shampoo ($18), Dew Magic leave-in conditioner, and Plant Power deep treatment ($22). Shoppers can visit the Sienna Naturals website to get on the waitlist for product restocks and updates.


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Allow us to reintroduce ourselves… ✨ We are Sienna Naturals and the countdown begins until we’re fully restocked in your shower, so make room! 🚿 Our products are made with lightweight natural ingredients, free of synthetics, harsh chemicals or heavy oils— formulated by women with textured hair for women with textured hair.
 We are so excited to be back with: 💫 Larger product sizes 💫 More accessible price points 💫 A whole new look and whole new face Join the waitlist to get your favorites the second we’re back! Link in bio. Also, here’s your friendly reminder to check your voter registration status.

A post shared by Sienna Naturals (@siennanaturals) on Sep 22, 2020 at 3:00pm PDT

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Mural Honoring Chadwick Boseman Unveiled At Disneyland

A new mural honoring Chadwick Boseman made its debut at Disneyland’s Downtown Disney on Thursday (Sept 24). The beautiful art work was painted by Nikkolas Smith, a former Disneyland Imagineer.

The art installation includes an inscription from Smith that reads: “As a former Disney Imagineer, I had the honor of working on a major children's hospital initiative and Avengers Campus as my final two assignments. Seeing Chadwick's heart for people in-person, and later discovering his courageous battle with cancer, I was inspired to create this tribute to honor his life and legacy. To us, he was and will always be T'Challa. Long Live The King.”

The image shows Boseman kneeling alongside a child in a hospital gown while both make the Wakanda salute. The photo is a nod to Boseman’s many hospital visits with sick children, all while he secretly battled colon cancer. The 43-year-old actor passed away from the disease in August.


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A post shared by Disneyland (@disneyland) on Sep 24, 2020 at 12:18pm PDT

The piece, which will be on display until the end of the year, was Smith's final project as a Disney Imagineer, a job that he held for 11 years.

“This one is special,” he explained in an Instagram post. “My King Chad tribute is now on a wall on display at Downtown Disney. It is a full circle moment for me: my final two projects as a Disney Imagineer last summer were working on the Children’s Hospital project and the ‘Avengers’ Campus. To millions of kids, T'Challa was a legend larger than life, and there was no one more worthy to fill those shoes than Chadwick Boseman. I'm so thankful to be able to honor Chadwick's life and purpose in this way.” Smith added a note of gratitude to Disney for being supporting of his artistic journey.

See more photos of the mural below.


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This one is special. My King Chad tribute is now on a wall on display at Downtown Disney. 🐾 It is a full circle moment for me: my final two projects as a Disney Imagineer last summer were working on the Children’s Hospital project and the Avengers Campus. To millions of kids, T'Challa was a legend larger than life, and there was no one more worthy to fill those shoes than Chadwick Boseman. I'm so thankful to be able to honor Chadwick's life and purpose in this way. I am grateful to the Disney family for being so supportive of my journey as an artist. @waltdisneyimagineering @disney @marvelstudios @disneyland 🐾✨ #LongLiveTheKing #KingChad #WakandaForever #Phambili #DowntownDisney #BlackPanther #ChadwickBoseman #RIPChadwick #WDI

A post shared by Nikkolas Smith (@nikkolas_smith) on Sep 24, 2020 at 10:01am PDT

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Breonna Taylor’s Mother Speaks Out After Cops Who Killed Her Daughter Get Off Without Charges

Breonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, says the system failed her daughter. Palmer posted a painting portrait of Taylor on Instagram on Wednesday (Sept. 23) which she hashtagged, #ThesystemfailedBreonna.

The Instagram post serves as her first public response to a grand jury failing to bring charges against three Louisville police officers for killing Taylor. On Thursday (Sept. 24), Palmer shared a photo of a woman carrying a sign with the Bible verse: “It’s wrong to favor the guilty and keep the innocent from getting justice.”


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It’s still Breonna Taylor for me💙💔💙 #ThesystemfailedBreonna

A post shared by Tamika L. Palmer (@tamikalpalmer) on Sep 24, 2020 at 10:19am PDT


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A post shared by Tamika L. Palmer (@tamikalpalmer) on Sep 24, 2020 at 4:52pm PDT

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron held a press conference on Wednesday where he announced that no charges would be brought against Louisville officers Jonathan Mattingly, Myles Cosgrove, and Brett Hankison for killing Taylor. Hankison was the only one among the three to be charged, but not for Taylor’s death.

In an interview with NPR last week, Palmer expressed her hope that charges would be brought against the officers. “I’m hoping to hear that there will be charges,” she said at the time. “That these people will be fired and arrested.” Hakinson is the only one of the three officers to be fired from the Louisville Metro Police Department after Taylor’s death.

Speaking to her daughter’s character, Palmer stated that the 26-year-old emergency room tech was a “beautiful person inside and out.” She pointed out that Taylor “kept saying that 2020 was her year.”

“And she was absolutely right,” said Palmer. “I hate that it came in that form, but it definitely is her year.”

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