It isn’t clear how things will work out until they begin. When he was 16 years old, Tokyo’s Revenge was like most young aspiring rappers; he started freestyling at school. After graduating the following year, the teen wasn’t sure what was next for him. He was homeless at the age of 18, couch-surfing at his friends’ cribs and engineering their music. Tokyo’s Revenge taught himself how to use production software Ableton while he was mixing other people’s work, and combined his technical know-how with a desire to make music of his own.
While working odd jobs and continuing to work on his tracks, Tokyo’s Revenge eventually hit pay dirt with “GoodMorningTokyo!,” a 2019 single from his second project, Mdnght (Side B). The track is a snarling ball of energy that dominated social media, then TikTok and DSPs—the song currently has over 126 million Spotify streams and 23 million views on YouTube.
On the road to success, he’s wading through comparisons to XXXTentacion and Lil Uzi Vert due to his choice in flows and voice, and fielding backlash for controversial lyrics. But Tokyo’s Revenge was able to parlay the favorable reception of “GoodMorningTokyo!” into a label deal with IGA (Interscope Geffen A&M Rercords) on Christmas Eve in 2019. The next day, “GoodMorningTokyo!” beat Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” on Spotify’s viral chart, an impressive feat on its own.
Now, the rising rapper, who got his rap name by combining his love for anime and getting revenge on those that doubt him, sits on the verge of his forthcoming third project. He’s going into the new release following the success of songs like the Zedsu-assisted “Thot!,” “Gotham” and “Body Count” featuring Jasiah. And he also landed a placement on the Madden NFL 21 soundtrack for his song “Irresponsible.”
Things are moving quickly, but Tokyo’s Revenge is ready for what’s ahead. Come along for the ride in this week’s edition of The Break.
Hometown: “Don’t worry about that. I’ll put it on the map sooner or later.”
I grew up listening to: “South Florida music. A lot of Wintertime, Smokepurpp, a lot of Jack White from the White Stripes and every band in between—alternative, punk rock, even like mainstream stuff, like All American Rejects.”
My style’s been compared to: “I’ve been compared to a couple artists. I’ve gotten plenty of comparisons to, RIP to the legend, XXXTentacion. And it used to upset me at first, but it doesn’t really happen as much anymore. I think people started seeing the difference. I’ve gotten a lot of comparisons to Denzel [Curry]. Some of my melodic stuff has been compared, stylistically, to Juice [WRLD], and some of it to [Lil] Uzi [Vert].
“I don’t take comparisons that seriously anymore because when Trippie [Redd] first came out, people were calling him Dollar General Uzi, and now he’s his own thing, and he’s always been his own thing. When your catalog isn’t out a lot, they just gravitate to whatever artist may sound similar to you, at all.”
I’m going to blow up because: “I think I know I’m gonna blow up because sometimes I feel like my music is garbage. ‘GoodMorningTokyo!,’ I hate that song. I’m like, Damn, I hate my own music, then I sit down in front of my computer, and mix and master my own music, and put in all this work, and then I put a tiny snippet after not posting on Instagram for a month-and-a-half, and people lose their minds over it. And it reminds me that the thing about blowing up isn’t just about whether you make music that people like, it’s about whether or not you can convey their emotions well through the medium of music.
“And constantly, people tell me they can relate to it. I’m always gonna be my own hardest critic, but every day, people wake up, and they’re like, ‘Yo, I need to listen to that Tokyo’s Revenge.’ As long as there are people like that on this Earth, I’ll be fine.”
What’s your most slept-on song, and why?: “The SoundCloud version of ‘Loveme!’ from Mdnght (Side B). Some people notice, but sometimes my SoundCloud versions of songs are different than my all DSP version because, mostly, I mix my own music, and I’ll send it to the label, and they’ll be like, ‘This shit is so dank and loud. If you don’t go get this limited and mastered…’ and I’ll talk to the engineer and go, ‘Turn it down a little bit, make it a little bit more palatable for people who have regular eardrums.’
“I see my creative direction on everything, I’ve always been like, ‘This needs to sound like this.’ I always put my crazier mixes on SoundCloud, and then we put the slightly toned down version on all DSPs.”
My standout records to date have been: “‘Clark Kent,’ ‘Gotham’ and ‘Drug Lullaby.’ Yeah, they put up M’s [millions of streams], obviously not as big as the smash hit, plaque song [‘GoodMorningTokyo!’], but those are the ones that fundamentally showed people what I’m fully capable of. I’m capable of having actual bars and actual wordplay. It makes people who are fans of actual rap, it makes them wanna assimilate with my fan base. ‘Gotham’ and ‘Clark Kent’ have all kinds of different flows, wordplay, punchlines, stuff that really flaunts my roots in hip-hop. ‘Drug Lullaby’ is a glimpse into what I’m capable of with my voice.”
My standout moments to date have been: “I remember when Erykah Badu posted her daughter dancing to one of my songs on her story, that shit was gas! How the fuck do I react to that? Also two weeks ago, [actor] Jack Black joined my [Instagram] Live. I was buggin’, then I fucked up because he asked to join the Live, but I was ending the Live, and I didn’t see because of mad comments. I ended the shit on him and I feel bad. My apologies to Jack Black.”
Most people don’t know: “I don’t make a lot of music. A lot of people think I make a lot of music every day, multiple times a day, and then I put it in a vault, which is not true at all. I can only make music when, mental health-wise, I’m in the right place, and like when I feel like I’m perfectly in the zone. And then I’ll sit down and make two hit-ass songs, and I won’t make another song for days. I’m really weird about how I record, and I think that’s also why I can’t record in studios. I can’t just be given a time slot to try to make something.
“We used to think that shit was cool when niggas used to be like, ‘We record every single day!’ Then now, becoming an artist, I’ve heard music from niggas who be like, ‘Oh, I made 50 songs in the stu today!’ And it be like, 40 songs are butt! And 10 songs are aight. I never understood the mentality where you force yourself to hit beats over and over again, especially when you get in this loop where you’re rapping about the same shit anyways. Half the time, them leaks be happening because niggas leaking they own music. They tryna clear their Google Drive of the mid they have.”
I’m going to be the next: “I wanna be the first of my own kind. But I’d love to be the next Dr. Dre or Eminem or Tyler, The Creator. The thing they have in common, they come from a place where they had music that was so controversial and polarizing. They still developed these fan bases that cared about them as an artist. So, they followed them through all of the transitions that they had in their art.”
“Body Count” featuring Jasiah
Mdnght (Side B)
See 20 Hip-Hop Albums You Never Gave a Chance, So Now’s the Time to Listen