Life ad­vice How a rare con­di­tion changed the way DJ Toki­mon­sta viewed the world.

It hasn’t been easy for pro­ducer and DJ Jen­nifer Lee, aka Toki­mon­sta, to earn suc­cess in a male-dom­i­nated in­dus­try. But be­ing di­ag­nosed with a rare med­i­cal con­di­tion changed her ap­proach to mu­sic – and mor­tal­ity

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents -

Grow­ing up in a sub­urb just out­side of LA called Tor­rance, I lis­tened to West Coast rap, hip-hop and punk rock on the ra­dio. As I got older, and my knowl­edge of mu­sic ex­panded, I ended up lov­ing more elec­tronic mu­sic and dis­cov­er­ing East Coast hip-hop.

My par­ents are from Korea, so I took pi­ano lessons for a re­ally long time. My mum would al­ways com­plain and say, “You never play any­thing from start to fin­ish.” And that’s be­cause I didn’t like the en­tire song, so why would I want to play the en­tire thing? I didn’t think mu­sic would be my call­ing; I treated it as a hobby. I thought I would end up do­ing some­thing more prac­ti­cal, like a desk job. But af­ter do­ing this pro­fes­sion­ally for a good eight years, my mum is now OK with it. It took her a while!

I was the first woman signed to the Brain­feeder la­bel, which had only had male rap stars pre­vi­ously. The main rea­son I’ve been able to get this far is be­cause I’ve tried to fo­cus so lit­tle on cer­tain char­ac­ter­is­tics about me, namely be­ing a woman and be­ing Asian. On the flip side of that, I have a re­spon­si­bil­ity as an Asian woman to serve as a role model. It’s not some­thing I asked for, but it’s some­thing that comes with the ter­ri­tory. I take own­er­ship of my iden­tity.

In 2010 I was voted Hottest L.A. Lady DJ by LA Weekly. They meant “hottest” as in best, but many saw it as a sex­ist ti­tle about my looks. The only part I didn’t like was the word “Lady”. I don’t want to be the coolest “fe­male” DJ. As proud as I am of get­ting the recog­ni­tion, I think the step for­ward would be to not have men and women in sep­a­rate cat­e­gories.

I was di­ag­nosed with a neu­rovas­cu­lar con­di­tion called moy­amoya at the end of 2015. I’ve had two ma­jor brain surg­eries and ex­ten­sive re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion since then. I’ve had to face my mor­tal­ity. Who knows what will hap­pen? The way I per­ceive my mu­sic and un­der­stand who I am as a mu­si­cian has changed com­pletely.

The new al­bum has been born out of this trau­matic ex­pe­ri­ence. All my al­bums are per­sonal, but this one is even more so. It was re­ally free­ing to cre­ate this mu­sic. In the past I never gave into what peo­ple said about me any­way, but for this al­bum I re­ally don’t care what any­one thinks. If no-one likes it, it doesn’t mat­ter to me. All that mat­ters is that I like it, the peo­ple I love like it, and cre­at­ing it brought me great peace. Lune Rouge is out Oc­to­ber 6.

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