Los Angeles beat maker Tokimonsta, actual name Jennifer Lee, stands out among the roster of artists featured on the Full Flex Express tour, which stops in Toronto Friday, July 13; at Ottawa Bluesfest Saturday, July 14; and culminates in Vancouver Sunday, July 22.
Lee’s modernistic hip-hop music is nothing like what you’ll hear Skrillex or Pretty Lights pump out.
The tracks found on her full-length debut, Midnight Menu, range from chill-core (“Sweet Day”), to disco-driven (“Death by Disco”), to slippery, hip-hop-infused beats (“Look-A-Like”).
Before immersing herself in the art of mixing, Lee trained on a variety of instruments, including the drums, piano and guitar. She says she’s carried over skills she learned on traditional musical tools and applied this knowledge in her electronic endeavours.
“I am prepared for how I approach my production because now I have to work with so many different layers of instruments together. I don’t think I’d be able to do that as well if I didn’t have a formal background,” she says.
As Tokimonsta, Lee frequently incorporates self-recorded instrumentation into her tracks, something she feels gives her music more depth.
“I like the characteristics live instruments have. I feel it adds a little warmth to a song. It is something I try to do in each of my songs — have some component that is actually recorded because I know it will add a better sound quality and give it a little bit more soul.”
The reality of sampling is an issue any mix-master must grapple with. Lee has compiled an extensive library of samples to draw on, yet she says she’s recently had to get creative when sampling and her overall approach to this musical tactic has changed over time.
“In the beginning, I was trying to make rap beats. I would basically look for samples, buy records. The fun thing about samples is when you find that one loop, that amazing sound, you notice the moment you find it and you automatically record it and start working with it,” she explains.
“Even though I am not sampling as much now, I still have these folders where I can find some crazy instrument that I can’t actually play or record live. Now people are a little cautious of using samples. I am always aware that I don’t want to get into trouble or get caught. Most people mask things so they can’t be recognized.”
“I notice there are a lot of gay fans who are really supportive, especially gay female fans. They have so much pride in me for being able to do electronic music. I feel the warmth, understanding and acceptance from this community has been integral to the genre.”
Lee’s newest project, a partnership with vocalist Suzi Analogue dubbed Analogue Monsta, promises to push the hip-hop genre to its limits. Lee calls it “a fun R&B, hip-hop project. It is electronic while including a lot of qualities of ’90s R&B, like SWV or Aaliyah, that whole era.”
The Analogue Monsta EP will be released in August on Scion Records.
In addition, Lee is prepping her forthcoming sophomore album, to follow up 2011’s Creature Dreams EP, for Ultra Records. The currently untitled collection is slated to drop later this year or in early 2013.
Lee hopes queer concert-goers who catch her on the Full Flex Express tour keep an open mind and resign to simply have a good time while they groove out to her inspired set.
“I hope that your readers who do come out are able to enjoy my set for what it is, because I know it isn’t going to be similar to some of the artists that are playing. The lineup is quite eclectic.”
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