Interview by Charles Odugbesan
“Do you wanna be a boy that’s still trying to be that man or do you just wanna be the f*cking man you wanna be?!”
How’s that for a powerful notion? Simple and galvanising – young men, and women (let’s keep it all inclusive) everywhere would do well to adopt that notion and apply it to their own individual passions; or just everyday life. Go out and kill it each day you wake up! I could leave you with this notion alone and be done with the article. But obviously there’s more…
Back when it was actually safe to leave our homes, 14HQ met up with the musician in question – Rasstokyo, a South East London born producer and engineer turned recording artist, fresh from the mid December release of his first solo mixtape DARK WHITE. We popped open a bottle of prosecco, “it’s an interview ritual” he proclaimed and went back and forth for an hour or so.
Before meeting Rasstokyo I had discovered that he had previously been known as Tokyo The Producer. It explained some of the lyrics I had caught listening to DARK WHITE and as we sat down to begin, the shimmering TTP chain I noticed behind me on the dresser all but confirmed it. Naturally I would ask him to describe that producer to artist transition.
His youthful creative flair was harnessed at The BRIT School, a performing arts and technology school in Croydon, South London. This famous institution has nurtured the Adele’s and Amy Winehouse’s of this world and there Rasstokyo majored in Media and rubbed shoulders with the likes of Octavian, also BRIT School alumni. But the story begins before this.
“I started producing at 12. Me and my family moved to Ghana for 6 months and that’s when I started.”
“Wow, so you’ve BEEN doing this? Working on your craft from a super young age.”
On the transition itself, his words were, “I kept making beats, but over time I didn’t think people knew what to do with them… and I had so many stories to tell”
“So it was only right that you’d tell those stories over a beat eventually?”
“Yeah man. I just can’t put myself in a box you know. I love doing too many things! I love being an entertainer.”
These words rang true. His originality was evident and on display before we even sat sat down to speak. The animated, constantly active social media presence. The unique sense of style sporting kickers, lvs jewellery custom grills and dyed blue hair (which since this interview I believe is now white). Right down to his sense of humour and ability to pick up on the most trivial of details – you could’ve guessed way before conversing with him that he has an eccentric and artistic touch. It only led me to ask further questions.
“What or who are some of your musical inspirations? Who does it for you?”
“[Inspirations have] definitely changed over the years. And it’s not just the music but also the emotions that people have given off… people like The Dream, Timbaland, Drake, Party Next Door, T Pain and Frank Ocean.”
He continued, “Then I might go back and listen to Old Kanye and then maybe some Luther Vandross… and then from all these people I would study how they’d write and put their words together… how they’d say things to make you feel a certain way… and from there I’d pull all these things together.”
“To make your own sound?”
“That’s it. And then of course you draw from your own life experiences and the different cultures you come across.”
Finally, I wanted to delve a little into the DARK WHITE mixtape itself. An easily digestible 6 song compilation that I would learn took “just over a year to make”, the filling of the tape consists of high energy, rhythmic bounces that Tokyo neatly ties together with witty lyrics and a skippy flow, changing in pace to match the tempo of each song accordingly.
Sandwiching these bounces were the two most notable songs of the interview for me. Contrary to the middle four tracks, (1) WHAT’S THE POINT and (6) ROAD OUTRO offer a little more introspect… a little more of those life experiences that Tokyo earlier alluded to.
In the former he illustrates some of the typical changes in his life as he has become more successful as well as displaying the mindset of a young adolescent growing up in inner city London.
“In that final song, ROAD OUTRO, you take a really reflective approach. You’re talking about your twins and all the responsibilities you have in your life now. Do those changes and responsibilities affect your music in any way?”
“I mean after a while you realise that there’s more to life than just getting lit and going out and having a good time… [Having kids] encourages me to push harder. When you have kids the drive to work harder and make more money to provide is different bro… it’s unmatched!”
I strongly believe that musicians have an undying creative pursuit, through most of their careers, to speak words that are figuratively etched in stone. Words that are time tested, emotionally connecting and also challenging to anyone who cares to listen. The conversation from here eventually led to the opening quote, after which I thanked him. Rasstokyo had gained a keen listener from here on out.
Be sure to listen to Rasstokyo’s DARK WHITE mixtape as well as his follow up tape HOME ALONE.
Follow Rasstokyo on Instagram