office had the pleasure of sitting down with the rapper to discuss what it was like growing up in Japan, the power of believing your own destiny into existence and his almost two-year-old baby, True.
You grew up in Tokyo. Has that shaped your musical taste?
It made a super big impression on my taste with music, fashion—just my vibe—maybe even in the way I treat people.
In what way?
I feel like it’s a very helpful, very complimentary [city] with no filter. It feels organic; it feels real.
Well, whatever it is, it’s not very New York.
Yeah, I tend to like people who are the same type of way, too. Anyway, I stayed an hour away from Tokyo, in Yokosuka. So, I’d take the train into Tokyo and I would be in the mix on the weekends and I feel like that definitely added to my vibe. Those were the years I was growing up where I caught myself coming to school late, or not going to school, finding out what I really like to wear, what my style was, what music I liked—they were the years where I found out what I liked and it just so happened to be in Japan. So, all of my first times—like my first crush and first real girlfriend was in Japan. It was cool having those different moments. Like, I was listening to certain songs, like Lupe [Fiasco singing], 'Wake up in Tokyo,' and I was really out there with that whole vibe.
What other kinds of music were you listening to at that time? Any Japanese artists?
I knew about Japanese artists, but I didn’t start to work with them until later on. When I lived there, in terms of Japanese rap, it might have been the Teriyaki Boyz. Around the time that everyone was listening to J.Cole, Mac Miller, Wiz [Khalifa], Kendrick—all of the great hip-hop artists—that was the time I was probably listening to all of that too. My background music was the same as other kids, but my surrounding was different. I was listening to all the music that kids were listening to in the states with a mixture of hearing EDM coming out from all of the clubs around me. So, you hear all the top 50, pop, EDM, reggae. But I’ve always been the kid listening to everything and getting hip to listening to all of the mixtapes nobody is listening to just because I want to hear some different sounds, different verses.
Yeah, great music has a way of transcending all environments while appealing to a wide range of people, and still resonating with them.
Exactly, and it’s dope to listen to a song and hear what it reminds people of. They’ll tell you, ‘Oh I remember when this came out and I was listening to it on the train in New York.’ And I’m like, ‘I was in Tokyo eating ramen,’ or whatever—something different. It’s so dope that everybody has a moment with music and it might mean something to someone else or it might not. That’s what’s dope with music—location and vibes. So, I think it made me like music different. If I didn’t live there, it would’ve sparked my whole brain to something else.
It’s funny, I used to think I’d bump into Pharrell in Tokyo, running out of Bape stores because that was my vibe listening to the music and I know he [hangs out] in Tokyo. I think that was the vibe that I wanted—that was the stuff I reblogged on Tumblr. From the modern homes to the Takashi [Murakami] stuff, like plush animal shit. Then I started really believing it could happen. I love the fact that I could live in Japan for a time period because it’s really added to my taste. I’m glad that my pops put me in a position that made my story different. I used to want to be a kid that just grew up in Brooklyn. When I was a kid, I didn’t want to move away from my friends. Then there was a time where I was like, ‘Wait, I don’t have to be around you two years from now? Alright.’ So, I appreciate all the moving, I appreciate Japan. Now, when I go back to Japan, I really feel it. People show more love—it’s dope. Like, in the middle of Tokyo, someone stops me just to tell me that they’re a real fan and then somebody else skates by like ‘Chains on Skateboard P,’ and I’m just like, ‘Wow shit is crazy.’ It’s like, I used to live there and just run around Tokyo, being young at the clubs, and now, people stop and feel what I do, and on top of it, you’re in Tokyo, but you’re not Japanese. It’s so fire.
That sort of connection is incredible. You talked a bit about believing in yourself until you made it. Do you think you can manifest your own reality?
That’s scary. I just had this conversation the other day with my brother. I have a song where I talk about ‘cruising through Melrose, bad chick from France’—all of this stuff that I’m saying in the song—and all of that is happening now to the point where even in my songs I talk about, ‘My ex keep callin’, swear that she in the way’—all of that stuff that you say eventually happens. It’s sad to say this and so scary that we’ve been going through all of these past deaths, but I listen to certain songs and I’m like, ‘Yo, this was definitely a whole letter—why didn’t I listen to this?’ Certain vibes and energy are so powerful to the point where I never said that I don’t think it’ll happen for me. Honestly, I never said that. But there was a moment that I remember my mom told me, ‘You’re going to get your chance to do everything that you want to do, but it’s not right now and that’s okay. But one day, people are going to look at you the way that you want them to.’ At that moment, I was like—I mean, of course your mom is going to say that type of shit to you ‘cause it’s your mom, you know? And your pops is gonna say that too—but I started speaking everything into reality. I wasn’t making depressing music—I was making music that was happy, like, I was really doing that, and it made me feel cool ‘cause people were telling me that when they listened to my music, it made them feel cool.
Right now, I have this whole relationship where I feel like certain songs can come back and bite you in the ass. Lyrics like, ‘I got bored too quick,’ or like, ‘Had to get a brand new chick’—you be on stage and it’s so surreal it all runs back to you in your head being like, ‘When I recorded this I was in a full relationship.’ Life happens a certain way for a reason, but I feel like they’re subliminal things that God makes happen. You’re looking back like, ‘Why did I make this song?’ because subliminally in your head, that’s your vibe, and certain things you do attract certain behavior back. If you wake up in the morning like, ‘I look good, I feel good, I’m gonna go to the coffee shop and say, ‘Hi,’ and start two conversations and give off a good vibe today,’ I feel like you’ll be a step closer to whatever you wanna do.
Like, the energy you put out is what you get in return.
If you’re negative with it, it’s not gonna happen for you. ‘Cause you’ll meet a person so cocky, saying he’s gonna do it, and he’s the one who ends up doing it. Then everyone who’s really talented is like, ‘How the fuck did he end up making it?’ Because he manifested it and it came to the point where he believed it so much that other people started to believe it too. When Flacko was sittin’ here singing, 'I’m that pretty motherfucker,' and he really came through with that aura.
Yeah, he’s sexy.
Exactly! And if you put that vibe out there where you claim to be the best rapper and someone comes to test you, then guess what, you’re getting tested because you kept that vibe. And if you fye, you get to take that crown. And if you sit there saying you that pretty motherfucker, you gonna really have to be that jiggy all the time and it’s gonna be put to the test, and if you keep that vibe, you are that guy. He was saying it in his songs before people was saying it—before people was ubering everywhere.
I’ve definitely said I want a brand new house, a brand new whip, a brand new bitch and I got all of that shit in less than a year of me putting that song out. All that shit real quick. There were songs in past years where I was doing hip hop shit and I was just rapping about shit that just wasn’t working out. I listen to my old music and some of the shit was depressing. Then when I start to switch my topic is when I start getting more followers and people started fucking with me more because the vibe that I put out wasn’t sad—it was cool.
Putting out an image that people want to aspire to be.
So many people are depressed. It’s like, even the kids that are out now that are putting out depressed music are ‘depressed,’ but they aren’t depressed. There are kids even more depressed than them with no money, no nothing like that. The depressed kids are looking at artists for help, so I be looking at all of this. It’s funny, you manifest want you want.
The universe listens.
Yeah, everybody’s listening, everybody’s watching. Nobody is a nobody. Like, it can happen in the blink of an eye. If I didn’t even say I was gonna do this—that’s crazy—I don’t know where I’d be right now. I don’t even know how I’d be taking care of my son. I probably wouldn’t have even met my baby moms, because I probably wouldn’t have went to her show, people wouldn’t have tagged me ‘cause I wouldn’t have been poppin’ enough, whatever. There’s a lot of factors to this. Each moment is so important. That’s why I spread positivity and when I leave a room I say, ‘Take care of each other.’ I have to spread that.
What do you think is people’s biggest misconception about you?
There’s a lot—I see Tweets and different things. I don’t know, you could probably listen to my music and not get the same vibe from me in an interview. You listen to my music and it’s turnt, it’s a fun time, but you don’t get the smoke-a-blunt vibe with Tokyo having a conversation on the couch—because I’m not turnt all day. Sometimes I’m just chillin’, ordering Postmates, maybe watching my DJ play Fortnite because I haven’t started that yet. I don’t know, I guess with any rapper, the misconception is that we’re out here smashing all these chicks. So, to all the model chicks out there, I’m not really that type of guy. I can’t even explain it ‘cause I’m a whole dad.
How old is your son?
My son will be two is January. Yeah, I’m dad as fuck. But even before, I’ve never been that type of guy. My parents are still together—they’ve been together since before I was born. I really do believe in true love. I’m picky. I’m just like you. But I think I’m special and I think everybody should be their biggest fan.
Considering your musical style, concerts must get pretty insane. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen happen in the crowd?
At first, I used to think seeing some titties was wild, but you learn to just deal with it.
So, when you’re not performing, or creating music, what are you doing?
I’m with my son, True.
What do you and True do together?
I bought this ball pit—it’s like a mini Chuck-E-Cheese in my crib right now. He loves it. So, yeah, I’m either with him, skating, or shopping.
What’s your favorite brand?
That’s hard. I like a lot of vintage stuff, a lot of archived stuff. I like Japanese brands. Like these pants I’m wearing are LAD Musician, Japanese denim. Nike and Adidas too—I fuck with both of them. But overall, MadeinTYO likes a lot of Japanese brands. When I go shopping, I actually like to get stuff for my son too. I buy him Gucci. I like the stuff Gucci does for kids because it’s super animated and it actually looks like kid’s clothes, rather than dressing him like a little man. You know, I like taking photos of him in that stuff, but he’s not all day everyday like that. Let him wear Spiderman or Scooby-Doo stuff, you know, he’s a kid. I go to Uniqlo, get him a bunch of onesies, and he’s good. He doesn’t care about all of that. I learned my lesson buying him a white Gucci shirt, it’s the worst. I knew it was gonna happen—that shit was fire, though.
What does the future have in store for you?
Imma dab in different stuff. It’s a mixture with clothes and skating that I’m working on—it’s gonna be dope. You might see my son start modeling or something. And always pushing the good vibe, doing everything with love.
'Sincerely, Tokyo' drops October 26.