TOKiMONSTA isn’t afraid to get loud. Urging for greater inclusivity, she’s amplifying the power of her voice via social media to make noise. “I was never one to state my opinions on society outwardly. It wasn’t what I thought musicians should do,” explains Jennifer Lee, artist’s real name. “However, times are different now.” In an e-mail interview, Lee talks about the music industry’s shared responsibility in elevating artists from different backgrounds and highlights a series of “checks and balances” within the ecosystem. She also dishes on French artist Dombresky’s remix of her song “Come and Go.”
Thanks for taking the time to chat with 6AM amidst these wild times! Has organizing LOSTresort been keeping you busy on top of making music?
Quarantine times have made it somewhat difficult for me to be creatively productive. I think it’s a common sentiment for many people who are relegated to staying home during this time of social and political disarray. The show allows me to have some semblance of regularity in a very irregular life. It’s quite nice to have social interactions with new people every week and offer that experience to all my viewers.
RT SO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY CAN SEE THIS: When public gatherings resume, venue and festivals PROMOTERS / BOOKERS please do your part to BOOK MORE WOMEN, BOOK MORE POC, BOOK MORE DIVERSITY. I’ve been touring for 10 years and this industry hasn’t progressed enough.
— T᷈O᷈K᷈iM᷈O᷈N᷈S᷈T᷈A᷈ (@TOKiMONSTA) July 4, 2020
A recent tweet of yours caught my attention, and it’s so critical we continue being vocal on creating change in terms of inclusion when in-person live events become a thing again. It’s easy to fall back into old habits, but how can we hold each other accountable to ensure this doesn’t continue happening? Does change start at the local level or do we need to see the big music promoters paving the way?
It has to be a series of checks and balances. Musicians have a responsibility to mentor diverse artists. Managers and agents should take on diverse artists as a part of their roster. The press have the responsibility to highlight diverse artists in their articles, and the promoters have a responsibility to book diverse artists. This is at all levels, small and large.
To clarify further, I don’t mean any random diverse person, but talented ones who really deserve to be highlighted in an industry that tends to ignore them. For every talented socially and ethnically-privileged male musician, it is very likely there is an equally talented female, POC, queer, etc musician. Let’s seek them out and encourage a wide range of amazing music we can all enjoy.
Dombresky just recently released a remix of your track “Come and Go.” Is this your first time working with the French DJ? Have you guys actually met before or just virtual friends–the latter tends to happen often!
I love the rich history of French dance music and its impact on the rest of dance and electronic. Dombresky is an artist I still have not met in real life (definitely internet friends) but am looking forward to meeting at some point.
Shout out to the girls out there trying to be themselves in a world where ppl r trying to shut them down.
Women have been taught to be polite and somewhere down the road being “quiet” became associated with politeness. Safe to say: quiet no more, and you’re not one to shy away from expressing yourself on social media, particularly Twitter. Have you always been strong with your words and speaking your truth since starting your career or what do you feel helped you find your voice?
I was never one to state my opinions on society outwardly. It wasn’t what I thought musicians should do. I thought musicians should stick to music and focus on the art. However, times are different now. I have this large platform and I want to use it in a positive way. I try to focus on positive changes that need to be made rather than tearing people down […] to inspire and not complain. Encourage people to be the best versions of themselves and understand we all have so much good inside.
I’m a completely independent artist that’s been releasing my music on my own label since 2014 and only other indie labels before that. No big machine behind me, just me and my small team. It’s been the long road, but I’ve always wanted to earn the respect of my peers & audience.
— T᷈O᷈K᷈iM᷈O᷈N᷈S᷈T᷈A᷈ (@TOKiMONSTA) July 10, 2020
When it comes to DIY, you really are DIY and operate with a lean team. Small but mighty! What have you found important when it comes to those who surround you and creating success for your music?
I really thrive with a team that is invested in each other’s happiness and wellbeing. I don’t really seek extreme wealth or fame, but I want to succeed. So my manager can send his infant daughter to college, [so that] I can give my assistant a crazy raise and live out every creative idea I can think of. I basically want it so we can all thrive. It’s a little tough right now, but I am energized that we can accomplish all the things we want.
Resilience is in your nature and it’s something that lives in the core of a person. As someone who has overcome serious major health challenges–life-changing to say the least—and as the world faces its own, any words you have to our readers to help them not only “go” through this year but grow in it as well?
This is not a normal time for us, but a moment of intense growing pains. Though times are tough, we can hold on to the idea that this moment shall one day pass and we will live in a brighter and more evolved future. There is a lot of pressure to “grow” in a productive sense, but taking your time with yourself is okay and healthy. If you can make it through this period with more knowledge and empathy, you can truly grow [in] miles.