It’s just after 8.45 pm and MadeinTYO is perched on the sofa arm in his dressing room. He’s wearing white tube socks and a pair of scuffed red and white Nike high-tops which are firmly planted on the edge of the table. Hennesy and coke in one hand, his other reaches out to greet the additional five or so people that just walked into an already cramped room. The sense of serenity is infectious, he’s over in London for the opening night of his first European tour. o2 Academy Islington is the venue and it’s only 15 minutes before he’s due on stage but the greetings have only just begun.
“I’m bless. I’ve been saying that a lot, but I really am,” he begins, looking down, as the room clears to just a few. Cameras flash and polaroid photos are handed around. The tour manager is in and out. “I was talking to one of my friends in the crowd, that I haven’t even met, and she did a drop for me that I use in all my music. I got this drop in like 2013.” MadeinTYO (pronounced made in Tokyo), is a part of a born-in early 90’s Atlanta rapper generation, thus somewhat duly introverted. Although a significant portion of his life was spent living in Japan, “there’s moments where you’re like, yo, these are like my first shows out here, of many, and erm, I’m happy, I don’t even know like, how to react to it. It’s like starting the tour over again, but it’s just a different vibe. It doesn’t even matter if it’s like 5 people showed up, like yo it’s five people, five kids, in Europe that you don’t know that love your music, so, I’m happy.”
An internet era of Hip Hop may well be dependant on virality, however, the success stories of MadeinTYO’s already enviable-catalogue are just as enticing. He recalls asking his mom, politely, to be quiet cooking whilst he finished off the rest of the record that was set to change his whole life – ‘Uber Everywhere’. That was 2016. Now, 3 years later and half way around the world from his LA residency, he’s gearing up for the stage, breezily.
He takes a sip. “Man you know what, I used to talk about music and wanting to do it, and I think I kind of manifested it with a lot of God and a lot of my mom praying. I couldn’t tell you when it was going to happen, but it happened for me. I dropped the ‘I Want’ song, 10, I wanna’ say 10 or less than 15 days, it was just everywhere, all the blogs you could think of. Then later I dropped Uber right after that. Everything was like a snowball effect, everything just started going up for me.” Having stuck with producer K Swisha since Uber, the pair have ended up having the plaque-earning ‘Skateboard P’ (ft. Big Sean) and ‘Ned Flanders’ (ft A$AP Ferg) he explains; “Man plaques in general, I never thought you would have a gold record or a platinum record, all of that is like a reach for me, I just wanna’ put music out, I just wanna’ put music out, and my friends like it, its cool, they hit me up.”
I don’t know how to act right now.
Laughter bubbles over in the room when reminiscing on his 500 followers days. “Nah for real, I used to be like it’s lit when I cracked 100 likes. And it was a good moment for me at that moment to where I can appreciate every level of it. 100 people or 1000 people.” Moments hit you, he says, before whispering bringing the room to utter silence “I don’t know how to act right now”.
Yes he may now be on his way to international superstardom, but this superstardom subsides to his pure humility and vulnerability. The moments he speaks so profoundly of happen daily. Riding in a car with his son with the next car along full of kids blasting his tunes. He doesn’t know how to react. He’s slowly learning. Embracing it. He doesn’t see himself as big as they see him, but he understands the necessity to break the ice, the divide.
There’s a seemingly untainted balance from his adolescence to adulthood through to now parenthood, as a father of young ‘True’. It’s a transition that one could only experience through experience. You go from “worrying about yourself to another person, knowing you gotta’ get home” as he put it. There was intermittent eye contact with the room. “Alright look so, the only way to make you guys understand that, you know when you miss somebody that you talk to or whatever, imagine like, it will never go away.”
There’s a knock at the door. A few more bodies arrive outside his dressing room door. It’s getting uncomfortably warm as the mirror lights get brighter. His voice crescendos over the rumble as he passes his iPhone to the tour manager before telling him the passcode. “It’s Ferg. I forgot he texted me saying he’s linking with Rocky and wants to come through.” Disbelief strikes the room. “What…A$AP?” peeped a voice in the corner. There’s a glimmer of excitement amongst a few. He clocks it. “Yeah I knew Ferg was gonna’ come but I didn’t know Rocky was too.”
“Always when I leave, I have that feeling” he continues, “It’s literally like, it’s so pure. It’s so like, you’re a child, you know that. You know they just hope that they’re good. Having a kid makes me want it more. His life depends on if I’m successful. So it’s like, the pressure is on, even more, where that’s the only motivation you need. People seek motivation everywhere, but I just look at a picture of my son and say ‘we gonna go get it today’. We working on music today, this is my job. It was fun at first, all just fun, but now it’s a job too. This really my wake up put the uniform on lets go.”
He hops off the sofa arm and fixes himself up as his winsome comical vulnerability surfaces. “Nah ‘cus this chick I was kicking it with once had a moment like that” he magnifies. The story perks up ears, “We’re not ever… I’m not ever bringing Rocky around you again, I get it but damnn, I hope the conversations about me or.. at least something” he says tittering.
It’s almost showtime. We disappear for a few minutes into the adjacent MadeinTYO dressing room. By the time we come back, they’ve made their way up four flights of steps to stage level. We rush up not to miss the moment. Woolly hat, shorts and Polythene jumper all still in place. Cup still in his right hand, and a mic in his left, he’s standing behind the black curtains, giving a little “oohh” into the microphone. The crowd noise bursts. He turns around and gives a silent child-like giggle. He’s unphased.
‘Outstanding’, a cut from the debut studio album ‘Sincerely, Tokyo’ released back in October bumps as he bounces onto stage. For such a compact venue, he’s dwarfed by the occasion. The project is weightier than his previous bodies, yet still seemingly shy of a status-solidifying body of work, completely definitive in sound and nature. The powerful production of hard-hitters ‘Chucky Cheese’ and ‘Ned Flanders’ assist in carrying the album to a noticeable piece and most definitely sets him off the mark in the run up to future drops.
“I got to add more people, with a verity, from Roy Wood$, Tinashe to Blood Orange to Ferg” he nods when talking about the album. “A mixture of those people, to this next album. I’m happy if people love this album because the next album is gonna’ be way better. Already right now from different people I’m working with and talking to, I’m…excited. Oh Tokyo has a song with this person or he has this vibe or I’m always gonna’ work with K Swisha. Actually his birthday was yesterday. I’m excited, I’m excited to work on more music.”
ASAP Ferg pulls up 10 minutes later. Himself, his chain, his girl and a beefy ASAP mob member all huddled between the black curtains to the right of the stage. He’s peering through a swarm of snapchat flash lights as ‘Chucky Cheese’ lights the place up. The ground starts shaking as “I Want” bursts through ear drums. ‘Uber Everywhere’ set the “throw a party” vibe TYO had talked about.
“It’s so dope to be able to throw a party, and you know that’s how I look at shows. Those people are out there, I walk out and they’re going to be happy I’m there. Who doesn’t like walking into a building and its people that love you. There’s so much negative stuff going on, so when you get the positives, every night, like yo there’s more than 100 people, more than 100 people that are ready to see me. That’s cool. That’s cool. And then like then not only that but like Europe, what! It’s the same thing if a European artist came to LA and did a show. Like you know, Stormzy (pointing at the poster behind him) comes to the states and does a show, that’s an emotional moment. Like LA sold out. NY sold out. And you’re from London. That is like amazing. So even to do shows, its amazing…” he exclaims passionately.
10pm strikes. ‘Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2’ drops and MadeinTYO gives a tribute to the late Yams. Rocky arrives solo and joins Ferg et al behind the curtains. We greet each other with the nod shoulder bump combo. He’s hooded out under the vest, with a blue Bart Simpson etched woolly cap. Comfy. Ducking constant calls with is iPhone in hand. ‘Plain Jane’ drops, the Mob and it’s entourage rush the stage to a roaring reception. Rocky joins Ferg and TYO dancing on stage before falling back to the stage side. Greeting MadeinTYO and his crew one by one as Ferg approaches the barriers. The lights are blinding.
You can’t help but be startled at the stature of company young MadinTYO not only keeps but creates with so early on in a hopeful career – 2 Chainz, Travis Scott, Big Sean, A$AP Ferg, just to name a few. The most important thing, the relationships, the collaborations, the conversations, they feel natural, organic, somewhat refreshing to an industry riddled with in-house plants. Perhaps such cases are the truly concealed silver lining of a Soundcloud rapper generation. It’s growth. Outdoing yourself every time.
There are beads of sweats dripping from a now jacket-less Ferg, as Rocky embraces him and they roll off stage and out the back after a few goodbyes. 10 minutes later MadeinTYO closes his first European show. He’s followed by 15-20 off the stage and down the stairs straight back into the dressing room onto his sofa arm chair. He pours a fresh Henny and Coke and hops up to change his shirt. There’s an air of jubilation though it remains as calm as the pre-show vibe. “Having ya’ll pop up. Like, shit was dope. Shit felt like even if I wasn’t here, like, really like, it’s like the culture here.” MadeinTYO breaks into a semi-monologue. The room fills up more. “It’s super dope. And I was seeing kids with Places + Faces T-shirts in the crowd, its fire. I didn’t tell them to do that, I swear…” the room laughs.
Energy flows throughout the night until it was time to dip. Paris is next up before the rest of the European tour. Until next time Tokyo.