On August 28, Los Angeles producer TOKiMONSTA (aka Jennifer Lee) took to Twitter in a righteous rage and delivered a surprisingly profound message about how consumers’ relationship to music has changed. That is to say, she said “fuck it” (literally) and leaked “Steal My Attention,” a song from her highly anticipated and yet-to-be-released third album, Desiderium. Whether it was one artist’s desperate plea or just a disconcertingly tact guerrilla marketing technique, this seemingly impulsive act was yet another example of the increasingly fluid demands of consumers who interact with artists on a multiplatform basis.
As for “Steal My Attention,” it sounds as inviting and honest as TOKi’s 2013 hit “Go With It,” though the track’s stripped-down style and straightforward danceability clearly point to a rededication to the simplicity of beat making. It’s high-energy dance music with R&B rhythms, contrasted by gradual, melancholy melody that refuses to even consider the simplicity of a bright, sugary hook.
Although TOKiMONSTA is the product of more than a decade of formal music training, she credits an early love of hip-hop as primary inspiration for her foray into production and DJ-ing, though her early efforts to produce for rappers fell somewhat flat. A sustained commitment to traditional structures and theory proved advantageous for the up-and-coming TOKi, who eventually signed with Brainfeeder, the hallowed record label of electronic music master Flying Lotus. (She’s since left for her own imprint.)
Included on the SoundCloud page of “Steal my Attention,” the aforementioned leaked track, there was a note left by TOKi herself, which reads: “I am going through some tough shit right now and all that makes me happy is knowing that I can bring people music that may help them in some way.”
In the end, it’s that sincerity and enthusiasm which most clearly sets the music of TOKiMONSTA apart from the thump-thump-thumping doldrums — it’s a refreshingly honest break for a genre seemingly careening off a creative cliff and into a sea of infinite “bangers” and “breakdowns.”
TOKiMONSTA plays Velvet Jones (423 State St.) on Saturday, September 20, with Made in Heights. Call (805) 965-8676 or visit velvet-jones.com for tickets and info.