Tokimonsta announced her return recently with a show at the the Ace Hotel in Downtown L.A as part of Red Bull's 'This City Belongs to Me' series. The near century-old halls of the converted United Artists Theater were crammed to the arching rafters as Toki debuted tracks from her upcoming album Desiderium, released on the L.A native's own Young Art imprint.
After putting out her debut record on Flying Lotus' Brainfeeder, she jumped to Ultra for last year's Midnight Menu. "They have different resources," she says of the two labels. "Brainfeeder doesn't have the kind of resources that Ultra does, but Brainfeeder has this cult following, this cultural capital. Brainfeeder is always something I can go back to, but Ultra is something I wanted to try out. The Ultra experience was pretty good, but it ran its course. I was really proud of that album. If it was out on Brainfeeder, it would have been exactly the same record. With this particular release, I wanted to take a step back from the whole label thing. Well, technically, it's on a label, but it's my own label."
Tokimonsta, real name Jennifer Lee, rose to prominence as part of the generation of heady, beat-centric producers centered around a 'lil weekly in Lincoln Heights you may have heard of: Low End Theory. The movement came about, in part, thanks to the tightly knit community that would frequent The Airliner in Lincoln Heights every week. Nowadays, with lines routinely around the block, it isn't quite the same vibe. "Low End is crazy now," Toki laments. "I can't deal with it. I get claustrophobic. When it first started, it was a really magical place. There were only a handful of people who would go and most of the people playing were people you knew anyway. It was pretty insular. That was when we all met each other. I remember meeting Flying Lotus on the patio there."
The success of Low End Theory has given way to a whole new generation of beat music producers in Los Angeles. There's a tendency amongst those who came up within an influential group to put on their curmudgeon shoes when talking about the proceeding generations. Not Tokimonsta: "I'm really into it. I like them a lot. Team Supreme, Soulection, even further out in Europe and stuff, they're doing such cool things. They're bringing back that soul into the music. And their music isn't as complicated, either. It's very listenable, yet it always has a lot of technique involved. My music has always been like that. I've always made the most accessible music out of everyone on Brainfeeder, but it's still very weird to the general public."
A little misandry is a necessity, though, just to keep a scene real. But it ain't coming from Tokimonsta, "I'm definitely not a cynical person about the new generation. Some of the older hip hop cats can be like that, like 'nah, this isn't vinyl!'. We need people like that, though. Every generation needs to have a few that wanna maintain the prestige of their generation. Dam Funk is a good guy who is like that. House Shoes, maybe, a producer from Detroit. I don't wanna be that person, though."
Tokimonsta's been a part of the Red Bull family since she was a member of the RBMA class of 2010. I've always been curious to know what actually goes on during those sessions. "It's a lot of fun," she explains. "It almost feels like summer camp, even though it was freezing in London in the Spring. We have lectures twice a day and anything you want, they can get for you. At some point, someone asked for a glockenspiel and they got it. Upright bass? We had three of them, and a lot of really obscure synths. Lunice was in my class. I'd hang out with Katy B a little bit, Kid Kneivel, Illumsphere. I still keep in touch with him. Katy B blew up really big like two months afterwards with that Benga tune, "Katy B on a Mission". I was like, 'Holy shit! I shoulda recorded more music with her!"
Keep an eye out for more Young Art releases. "We're talking to a few acts about signing. Most of the people wanna sign are people I've worked with. i have all these songs with these amazing vocalists – I like finding singers that nobody really knows about, but they don't have a platform to release their music. I just wanna be a jumping off point for people. I don't wanna be some sort of magnate."
Desiderium will be out on September 23 on Young Art
Jemayel can't even get into Low End anymore… - @JemayelK