by Ayanna Jacobs-El
Producer and DJ TOKiMONSTA (real name: Jennifer Lee) has been growing a successful and exciting career over the past seven years. She got her start on Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label where she released her debut album Midnight Menu in 2010. With her debut release, she caught the attention of critics and listeners which laid a solid foundation for her artistry. Fast forward to the present, TOKiMONSTA, currently has her own residency on BBC Radio 1 every third Thursday of the month and released her 5th album Lune Rouge last year.
On her BBC Radio 1 show, she plays everything from EDM to hip-hop, pop, and R&B. She also extended an offer to up-and-coming producers to have a song featured on the show. She will include 1 or 2 of the best songs in her radio show each month. She included instructions on how producers can submit their songs on her Twitter account. In addition to inviting producers to submit music for the radio show, they can also submit music to be released on her record label Young Art Records. The inspiration to create her own label came from the positive experience she had with Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder label. According to TOKiMONSTA, she “wanted a home to help nurture the creative output of her friends, in addition to releasing her own work.”
TOKiMONSTA’s latest release, Lune Rouge, was finished after the producer spent a year battling the rare brain disease called Moyamoya. During her illness, she had to undergo two major brain surgeries, a lengthy rehabilitation process, and at one point temporarily lost her ability to speak and hear music! These challenges and the strength she used to overcome them are reflected in the musical vibe of Lune Rouge. This album takes on a more melancholy tone than many of her previous releases, while also showcasing a wide array of emotions. On a number of tracks, she also features a unique roster of vocalists including Yuna, Selah Sue, Isaiah Rashad, Saints, MNDR, and IO Echo.
The album starts out with the emotionally charged “Lune.” A string filled instrumental song that sets the tone for the album and evokes a slight sense of sadness. The song then seamlessly transitions into the second track “Rouge.” The previous chord progression and somber feel are evolved by the addition of a steady, danceable beat and wistful vocals provided by TOKiMONSTA. The lyrics on “Rouge” are intentionally cryptic to allow the listener to create their own emotional interpretation.
Delving into the EDM realm is “I Wish I Could,” which features the powerhouse, Belgian vocalist Selah Sue. It is one of the most emotionally diverse tracks on the album by starting out in a more relaxed fashion with Sue’s soulful vocals singing lyrics filled with uncertainty. In the chorus, the song takes the energy up a gear with belted lyrics expressing her desire to be a better person while a pulsating, synth-heavy beat reinforces the urgency of her cries.
Another standout on the album is the bouncy, instrumental track “Bibimbap” which explores a unique range of rhythms and instrumentation. This song is completely different from anything else on the album and allows TOKiMONSTA’s stellar production skills to be front and center. On “Don’t Call Me” TOKiMONSTA teams up with Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna. The song features an unhappy, recount of a failed relationship in which the Ex-lover is trying to re-enter Yuna’s life. The production perfectly evokes the disdain conveyed in the lyrics while also propelling Yuna’s gentle and plaintive vocals.
Throughout the course of Lune Rouge, TOKiMONSTA weaves in and out of a myriad of styles, subject matters, and sonic textures that showcase her strong ability to evade being placed in a single genre while also expressing a range of emotions through her musical sensibilities. TOKiMONSTA is currently on her Lune Rouge Tour and you can check her upcoming show dates and buy tickets here.
HAVE YOU LISTENED TO TOKIMONSTA’S LUNE ROUGE OR BBC RADIO 1 SHOW?” LET US KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS!