From over a million views in less than 48 hours upon the release of her first car freestyle to being flown to Atlanta to meet T.I. and eventually signing to the Hustle Gang empire, life has been taking Tokyo Jetz pretty fast but her success is validated and speaks for itself. More recently, Tokyo has had a pretty exciting summer in which she released her latest single “No Problem” which garnered over 5 million streams across all platforms. Keeping the momentum, Tokyo announced her upcoming album, Bonafide, set to release October 2nd with features from T.I., Trey Songz, Kash Doll, and more. On the same day of the release of Bonafide, Tokyo Jetz will be joining Kevin Gates on his Luca Brasi 3 Tour kicking off in Austin, TX.
We sat down with Tokyo before things got even more hectic in her world and we discussed the pros and cons of her social media success, being discovered by T.I., and so much more.
Obviously social media has been a big blessing for you as far as your viral success with pretty much everything you put out. Would you say there are any downfalls to social media or have you experienced any?
It’s definitely downfalls to being popular on social media. I think people assume that they know you by what you post, and you don’t. You know what I allow you to see. People usually force their opinions on certain situations which they shouldn’t be applied to, and it’s most times personal situations. It’s a blessing but at the same time it allows people to think they know you on a personal level and you don’t.
What would you say is the biggest assumption people make of you from social media?
People usually assume that I’m this stuck up mean person and then when they actually get around me they’re like, “Oh you’re cool. You’re nice.” I’m always like, “No girl, think what you already thought”. [laughs]
When you decided to finally take rap serious in your mind how long did you actually think it was going to take for you to blow? Because you kind of blew up fast but life usually never happens like the picture we have in our head.
I wouldn’t say that I’m super big though. But when I first dropped my first freestyle video I actually wasn’t expecting anything to happen. I was just freestyling because I was mad and it just kind of blew up from there. But from the time that the video went viral to the time T.I. reached out to me and moving to Atlanta it’s been like a year and a half. I wasn’t expecting anything at all though. I was expecting to go back to work. I had no expectations at all.
You say you were freestyling because you were mad. What were you mad about?
The first freestyle that I did that blew up was me rapping off of Yo Gotti’s ‘Down In The DM’, and it’s a song that’s kind of similar to ‘No Problem’. I was mad because I was talking to a guy and a girl that was supposed to be his girlfriend was like, “You know this is my boyfriend, right?” But I had never heard of her. So that’s what the freestyle was about and I guess a lot of people just related.
Did you cut him off right then?
[laughs] Yeah, we’re back friends now though. We’re cool.
I remember hearing your freestyle to Kevin Gates song and ever since I loved you and I followed you. But pretty much I know right before your rap career really took off you were about to go hard with selling bundles right?
Yes, I used to sell hair. I didn’t have a job at that time. I had a little bit of money and I was trying to figure out ways to flip my money. I actually did really well selling the bundles, but I’m bad with money so I went and blew all of the money instead of getting some re-up hair and I just never did it again from there.
Do you think you did so well with selling bundles because your social media was already poppin’ even before you went viral?
I think that was why, but I’ve always been super popular in Jacksonville, where I’m from. So when I used to sell hair I never actually shipped hair to people. I used to drive around with hair in my trunk dropping it off to people.
I know you stress the fact that you came from nothing. Why do you believe you were popular even though you came from nothing?
I have no idea! I’ve always been the type of person who didn’t really care what people said about me. I’ve always done what I wanted to do whether people agreed with it or not and I think that’s one of the reasons I was popular. Also, I’ve always been around a gang of guys and they were popular in Jacksonville too so maybe that played a part in it.
If you weren’t rapping right now what do you think you would be doing?
I’d probably still be working at Comcast. I used to do technical support for Comcast. [laughs]
Photographer: Iced Up Photography
Creative Director: Sydney Escada
I ’ve literally witnessed you start turning up notch by notch. You got you an official DJ, you started booking a lot of shows in Florida and a few here and there outside of Florida got you a manager then out of nowhere — BOOM, you’re signed to Hustle Gang. How did the Hustle Gang situation happen?
It happened on Instagram. He happened to comment under one of my videos putting fire emojis underneath. I know I was like okay well you’re paying attention but at the time it was a gang of industry people doing that. Then, I reached out to him for advice because he’s one of my idols and he actually responded. He said, “Oh you hard!” But that wasn’t enough. Then, he told me to send him some more music then I didn’t hear anything else from him for like a week. I was thinking I messed up. But he ended up calling me and I thought it was someone playing on my phone so I hung up in his face a few times. Then he Facetimed me and said, “Look, this is my last time calling you.” Then we just linked up from there. Me asking for advice turned into him flying me and my manager to Atlanta and we’ve been here ever since.
What was your official “Yes, I’m apart of Hustle Gang” moment?
I actually just recently signed with Hustle Gang. People don’t know T.I. is such a solid person. I was around for so long and I was receiving so many benefits as if I was one of his artists but I wasn’t. I actually just recently signed this year.
Who were some of the other major artists that you say were commenting under your post?
Jermaine Dupri, Rick Ross — I can’t remember everybody right now but I for sure remember T.I. and Rick Ross because those were people that I actually looked up to.
“Trust No N***a” — what was the inspiration behind that song?
Not trusting no n***a [laughs] Everything is a true story. N***s be playing with me.
What about “Brenda”? Is that a true story?
Brenda is definitely a true story. Brenda is one of the only times that I actually spoke from a vulnerable state. Like most times I make music telling people how to be strong and how and how to get over stuff. But that was the only time that I spoke from a place where I was hurt and not too many people knew about it. That song was when most of my family found out about that situation.
Where you skeptical about putting it out?
No, absolutely not because I knew I wasn’t the only person who had been through that situation.
I know you have music with Kevin Gates coming up. How did that happen?
I’ve actually never met Kevin Gates. Well, I actually met him a long time ago in Jacksonville. I’ve always been a huge fan. But, when he went to jail I linked up with Boobie Black, which is one of his closest friends and he told me Kevin really loves you. He loves your music. He said you’re his favorite female artist and I was like, “Boobie you’re lying!” But when Gates actually got out of jail he reached out to me and the first day we talked on the phone we stayed on the phone for like three hours. He gave me a whole lot of advice and since then we’ve been super tight.
What’s the best advice he gave you?
He told me to be mindful of the people I work with and who I decide to give my energy to and to basically know that all money is not money that I need and to limit my availability to people.
What’s the first thing you bought after your first big check?
I bought a couple of things. I bought a car — a BMW. I bought my little sister a car. I got trust funds for all of my nieces and my nephews. I went and got some jewelry. I got a townhouse. I got a lot of stuff.
Looking back on it are you pleased with that purchase or would you have changed your decision?
No, because I’m still getting money. If something was to change then I might regret something but absolutely no regrets. I feel like I’ve worked for everything I have.
Being a female in a male-dominated industry have you noticed any obvious signs of people trying to take advantage of you because of that?
People have definitely tried to take advantage of the kid early on. But I think now people know Tokyo is a strong individual and that Tokyo isn’t just going for anything. But in the beginning, when I was trying to get my name out there people definitely tried me. But you just have to know what you want and what you will and won’t do and people won’t ever try you again.
Of course, it seems like all glitz and glam but what’s something you least expected to come with this industry?
It’s a lot of fake and you have to be able to stay on top of it and control it and not let it consume you. But outside of that, a lot of people I knew personally our relationships have changed because of the situation I’m in. I feel like it was just meant to happen that way. This situation just kind of exposed that for what it really was. But the industry is full of a lot of fake and it exposed a lot of fake that I had in my real life.
The people that it exposed in your real life were they faking trying to be your friend for the wrong reason or what?
I feel like when you’re put in certain positions people feel like you’re obligated to do certain things and at no point am I obligated to do anything for anybody. A lot of people I put into position to make money for themselves and they chose not to take advantage of it. I do a lot for my immediate family so when they see that they feel like they’re supposed to get the same thing and you’re not. It just is what it is.
What’s something positive that has been happening to you that you least expected to come with this industry?
I get a lot of love from people. Like a lot of the relationships that I have with people, I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t an artist. Like I can pick up the phone now and ask Gates a question. If he doesn’t know the answer he’s going to find the answer. I can ask T.I. a question and if he doesn’t know the answer he’s going to find the answer. It’s a lot of genuine love that people have for me that I wouldn’t have knew they had for me if I wasn’t Tokyo.