Toki has to be the hardest working guy in hip hop out of Minnesota. He is both politically active and community conscious while pursuing his musical career.
Take a look at some of his accomplishment’s 2003 Minnesota Music Award Nominee, Artist of the Year 2003 – Star Tribune, 2003 Top 10 Albums of the Year – Star Tribune, 2002 Hip-Hop Artists of the Year – City Pages, Justice Soundtrack and Score 2004 [Jujitsu Films] Nominated for NAACP Image Award and, MTV Made with Snoop Dogg, The Game, and C-Rayz Walz. Remember these are only some of his accomplishments.
He also takes on many roles as Youth Organizer w/ YO! The Movement, Main organizer for the Twin Cities Celebration of Hip-Hop, One half of Hip-Hop group The C.O.R.E., One half of Hip-Hop group Aphrill w/ Nomi of Oddjobs and solo artist. He puts in his dues to help keep this scene alive. With a grind like his there is no way to go but up. We had a chance to ask him a few questions. check out the interview and look out for more of Toki Wright soon.
Give us some insight who Toki is beyond the artist?
The answer to that is a complex one. As an artist I would like to be known for my art. My personal life is something that I’d like to remain personal. I do however work with youth and people movements throughout the world. I’m also a freelance writer and occasional poet.
When did you first get into music?
I first got into music when my mother would play the Gap Band loud in our house every weekend when we cleaned. It was a moment for everyone in the house to wild out.
When did you get serious about music?
I started getting serious about music when I was 13. I had been writing before but when I got my first opportunity to get on the mic I got scared. It was in front of a lunchroom full of junior high school students at a dance and they never let it down. I told myself that if I was ever going to get on the microphone I’d have to go all the way through with it. That was in 1993. In the time afterwards I continued writing and put together a talent show at my high school Patrick Henry on the Northside. Any youth event or house party I would get on the mic or get in the circle and do my thing. I also used to get down at this poetry spot called Java Noire. In 1997 I was performing at the Lake Street Cultural Festival talent show when Slug walked up to me and told me I was dope and to keep doing my thing. When I found out who he was I looked for his judges sheet and saw that he gave me a perfect score. I linked up with The C.O.R.E. in 98.
What sets you aside from other artist?
I could speculate all day but the bottom line is that I am me. I am not afraid to tell the truth about myself even if it may be embarrassing. I believe that you have to tell a story from your own perspective in order to get a true reflection of reality. Hence the name of the album “A Different Mirror.”
You have worked with Atmosphere and others from the Rhymesayer’s. what is that like?
Rhymesayers is a tight knit organization that doesn’t just let everybody in the door. I have a lot of respect and appreciation for RSE. Especially for Brother Ali and Slug for looking out for me when they didn’t have to. My perspective on RSE is probably much different than those in the general public.
Some consider you the Minnesota Russel Simmons how do you feel about that?
Haha. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.
What is it like putting together the Twin Cities Celebration of Hip-Hop every year?
It’s a very hard straining process. You have to deal with friends, potential enemies, lack of finance, pressure, etc. Sometimes it makes me not want to do it, but I know that it needs to be done. We (Larry Lucio and I) started that festival as an idea when we were 19 year old kids. For that reason alone we have to keep it alive. Its hard on the mind, body, and soul though. In the end its good to see people having a good time and learning something new.
You are in a couple hip hop groups and a solo artist tell us some about the groups you are in?
The C.O.R.E. which is me and Adonis. APHRILL which is me and Nomi from Oddjobs/Kill The Vultures/Power Struggle with Medium Zach of Big Quarters on production. The Chosen Few which is a crew made up of myself, Illuminous 3, Trama, Fic, Mazta I, Guardians of Balance, Reg E Reg, King Karnov, and beatbox king DJ Snuggles.
How did you line up doing the Justice Film sound track?
Truthfully I don’t event totally remember. We were really doing our thing at the time. Opening for most of the major Hip-Hop shows coming through town and getting a really good response.
You recently went to Africa what was that experience like?
That is a long story that involves pain, mass death, love, heartache, starvation, and self-reflection. I was writing a story for the Source Magazine on Hip-Hop in Rwanda and my experience was so hard that I couldn’t even finish it. I’ll write about it one day though.
You run a company called Amplified Life tell us more about that?
That’s a lifestyle/planning/consulting company run by myself and Larry Lucio Jr. A lot of the work we do, such as the Twin Cities Celebration of Hip-Hop flies under that flag.
What was it like being on MTV made and what was your involvement in it?
It was pretty interesting. I was on my way to Brasil midway through the taping so a lot of it I missed out on. I get recognized for it a lot but I don’t want that to be the last thing people remember me for. I’ve done a lot more important things before and after that.
You are involved in many aspects of the music business how do you stay focused?
Sometimes I don’t. Its difficult being in music and in community, and trying to take care of your family. Sometimes I just have to shut everybody out for a little while and deal with my issues one by one. I do a lot of list building and crossing off.
What is your overall goal for your career?
Big house. Big car. No really. I want make sure that I can share what I’ve learned. I want to be able to take information and create dialogue. It wouldn’t be bad to be able to sustain myself doing something I love though.
What is the next move for Toki?
I have a song coming out on C-Rayz Walz new album. Finishing up my solo record. I’ve got beats on the way from Mr. Len of Company Flow. We’re shooting our second video for The C.O.R.E. album Soul Searchin’. The song is called Soul Clap. The APRHILL album should be hitting the street this summer with some Midwest and West Coast release parties. Still hitting the road with Brother Ali and BK One. Putting out a compilation cd called “Low Budget High Quality 2.0” on June 1st. Causing problems.
Thank you for doing the interview. Is there anything else you would like to say?
Whoever you are is better than whoever they are trying to make you become. Turn of the tv. Kick a radio. Kill the internet.
Where can people stay up to date on Toki?