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.
…shop? I like picking up clothes when I travel.
…drink? In Koreatown.
…party? 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.