The internet push is now the modern enabler for an artist’s ascension. Rising star Tokyo’s Revenge is all too familiar with its results. Earlier this year, his breakout single “GOODMORNINGTOKYO!” caught viral steam on TikTok and has since racked 128 million streams on Spotify and counting. Its screamo-whisper soundbite and charismatic vocal acrobats was the perfect combination to conjure an organic online storm.
Its trademarks carry onto further output by the artist known as Tokyo’s Revenge, adopting abrasive bass-heavy production and a bucket of personality. But Tokyo’s short catalogue is already showing a wide range of versatility through his blend of SoundCloud rap to pop punk and emo rap.
In light of his latest EP, 7VEN, Tokyo’s Revenge takes centre stage in the first edition of The Spot Cheque.
What artists and genres inspired you to create your own sound?
Tokyo: It’s kind of all over the place. Both my parents are Haitian and to assimilate to American culture when they were younger they listened to a lot of Jimmy Buffett and Fleetwood Mac. So I grew up listening to stuff like that before I got into hip hop. And then from there, old Tyler, The Creator, Eminem, lot of Jay-Z. It all kind of like is a big moshpot that led me to where I am now with the way that I choose to rap.
Who inspired you to mix heavy metal and rap together?
Tokyo: I’m not gonna act like I’m the first person to ever mix heavy metal and rap in the underground, but the way that I do it, it comes from a lot of different places. It comes from listening to Disturbed all the time, it comes from listening to a lot of South Florida music when I was homeless and before I was making music. And all that culminates into the flow that I have now and the way that I can hit any type of beat, any type of song.
What made you decide to be anonymous?
Tokyo: I kind of like the idea of no one really knowing anything about me because it forces them to try to figure me out by listening to my music as opposed to looking for clues about my personality or what I’m like based on social media posts. I’m not super overly attached to social media like that cause I feel like if you over-present what kind of person you are through social media people aren’t really interested in you. I want them to be more interested in my art and the stuff that I create cause that’s the thing that I’m focused on getting to them.
I feel like a lot of musicians now are more focused on being social media influencers than they are being artistic creators and I’m kind of like the other way round. I don’t talk much about me, I just talk through my music and let people figure it out from there.
The “Gotham” music video draws inspirations from anime and the movie Sky High. Why were these your main sources of inspiration?
Tokyo: When I watch anime I think about all the crazy choreographed scenes and things that you can’t really do without strings and wires and bunch of OD computer animation. And to me that stuff looks kinda corny, so I’d much rather do it in 2D. So all of those little influences build up to that and express how I want people to interpret the stuff that I’m putting out. It’s like a culmination of everything that I like when I like to watch something.
What is your favourite anime?
Tokyo: Yo, I got so many bro, I can’t pick one. I got a lot. I’ll give you like a top five: Soul Eater, Fire Force, Devilman Crybaby, The Promised Neverland… Naruto, obviously, that’s mandatory, and Bleach.
When you released “GOODMORNINGTOKYO!” did you have any idea of what the song was capable of?
Tokyo: Yeah, I knew from the day that I made it. What it was for, what I was gonna use it for, how long I was gonna sit on it for until I wanted to release it. I tweeted – this is so juvenile – I tweeted a while ago before I dropped the song that I’m willing to bet both of my testicles that this is gonna be my first song ever to hit a million [laughs]. It was a dumb tweet but I was right! I kind of create music in this little mental vacuum where I’m in this mode and I wanna do this for this reason, and even though I record sessions days apart I’ll know what the vibe is the second that I’m going into it. That song was like, “Today I’m gonna make a song that’s gonna change a lot of things.” And that’s what I did. From the second I heard the beat I was like, “I know what this is for.”
What expectations did you set for yourself when recording your EP, ‘7VEN’?
Tokyo: I want no misses, that’s all I want. I want to create something and not think of it as a product, but think of it as “I painted this.” And I want you to look at every single one and not get tired of it. That’s what my goal was and I definitely accomplished that. I was overwhelmingly happy seeing how people reacted to it.
What do you want people to take away from a track and how do you want them to feel?
Toyko: I rap in a really bipolar way where I want it to be super clear off-rip that my lyrics have absolutely nothing to do with my delivery. If I can create a scenario in which I’m using an extremely aggressive delivery style but extremely light-hearted lyrics it’s almost confusing but it makes it go harder cause you were expecting something based on the way that my voice came in. But when you pay attention to what I’m saying those two things don’t add up.
And I’ll do the same thing where I’ll switch it, say something super aggressive lyric-wise but use a super endearing, nice, more childish, juvenile type of voice. It’s the same with the screaming to whispering. Seeing the contrast in the art has always excited me more than just staying the same the whole time.
Are you in touch with the UK hip hop scene? Do you have any favourite British artists?
Tokyo: I actually do, but it’s not someone who’s making a lot of music now, but Lady Leshurr. She had these songs called the Queen’s Speech. Back in the day I used to listen to all of them, every single one. All of her Queen’s Speech freestyles hit for me because her ability to use punchlines in every bar back to back to back has a huge influence on the way I deliver my punchlines.
Do you feel like the industry is missing something?
Tokyo: Actually I don’t feel like the industry is missing anything, I feel like there’s a little bit too much of things. The best way I can put it is, a while ago I had this weird kind of epiphany thing where I was like the biggest problem that we’re having right now is that we’re overexposed to everything. Everything is turned up to ten and I feel like the same thing about the music industry. We have people who aren’t just trying to be musicians but trying to be musicians and social media influencers and brand deals, sponsor people, all kinds. All of that comes with the success of being an artist obviously but I feel like from what I see around me that people who are more focused on what their Instagram engagement looks like and reference it to another artist that may be in their same range as opposed to what their music is or how well they convey what they were trying to get across through their music. I kind of skip out on that and put the music first.
What is your routine in an average day of yours?
Tokyo: I wake up and take a super long burning hot shower and then I do everything but think about music. I think the way that I make my best music is that I don’t force myself to constantly wake up and be like, “I’m an artist, I have to do this, I have to do this, I have to do this.” Instead I just wake up and I’m like, I’m a regular person who came from one place to this place with some of my best friends. And we’re gonna do what we would do even if we weren’t making music except now we’re all working together to make sure we all live well.
We all focus on each other’s mental health over everything else. The music is just tied into that because we try not to think of it as a job because it wasn’t a job to us prior, it was something that we did as an outlet for whatever, you know what I mean? Every day we wake up and we’ll play like Smash Bros. for a couple hours and then we’ll go out and just do stuff, we do it all together. Then we come home and if we’re in the mood to make some music, we do it. If not, we’re like, “Maybe tomorrow.” No pressure.
You have openly spoken about not being understood growing up. How did that feel compared to growing into who you are now?
Tokyo: When I was younger I had this really bad, super super bad ADHD. I’ve been on Concerta, Adderall, Ritalin, everything you could think of from the time I was a kid. It was in general hard for me, not necessarily to fit into social situations but in regular social stuff where it’s just like friends being friends and outside just hanging out it was fine. But in school I was so weird because I could never sit down, I could never stop talking. I would almost see it as I’m doing it and not being able to stop myself from doing it unless I was zombie’d out on Adderall and it always made me feel super out of place, cause it’s the shittiest thing being a social butterfly that can’t stop doing what they’re doing sometimes and to fit in the way everyone else is fitting in.
So later after a lot of stuff happened during school I kinda learned to take the stuff that I thought were weaknesses and utilise them for other things. So, you know, fitting in now is obviously isn’t important because I live with my best friends but on the road here I just used those weird ADHD-esque things that used to haunt me when I was younger to be able to adapt to a lot of situations that I feel like people would be socially shy in. And now we’re here where normal doesn’t really matter and being yourself is all that matters.
How do you deal with the pressure of appeasing fans?
Tokyo: Honestly, I try not to trip about it. Everything comes with pressure, everything is hard. We live in 2020, this is the most ridiculous year I’ve been alive! I try not to think about the pressure that it comes with and just focus on doing things that I think is good instead of trying to impress people.
What advice do you have for upcoming SoundCloud artists?
Tokyo: There is absolutely no reason to stop. Even if you’re not reaping as much as you sow, even if you’re not collecting as much as you’re putting in, there’s no reason to stop because if you’re constantly releasing or improving on something you’ll get better. And getting better is all that matters. Whether you’re getting better at learning how to mix your music, or getting better at having a less awkward delivery when you rap. Whatever it is, just keep going and going and going. Because eventually you’re gonna get to that point to get that one extra experience point that’ll take you to that level, that’ll make people wanna be like “Yo, I love listening to this song, but now I want my friends to listen to this too.”
Now that you’ve achieved global success how do you intend to maintain long-term relevance?
Tokyo: By doing whatever I feel like. I learnt pretty early on that I’m not striving to have fans or following based on trends, or people who support me in this community through any medium that I choose. I feel like I’m connecting with them through more than just whatever I post musically, whether it’s YouTube videos or making music for however long. I want to keep being connected with them that way, cause I feel like that’s my main support system in general.
What is one piece of advice you would want to give your past self?
Tokyo: Keep worrying. I can be a worrywart sometimes and kind of overthink and sometimes it’s my downfall. But if I could tell my past self something, don’t have a moment where I stop worrying because worrying has been one of the driving factors in helping me do what I do best. That was a weird thing to say.
There’s been times back then where I used to get into little slumps where I’d stop worrying and I would lose my mental edge because I’d get complacent. I gotta make sure I don’t do that. If I could tell myself something I’d be like “keeping worrying”, like something’s chasing you. Keep running and running and running and don’t stop.
Tokyo’s Revenge’s EP ‘7EVEN’ is available to stream on all platforms.