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Friday, Oct. 29, 2010

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Monstas exist: Jennifer Lee, aka Tokimonsta, says the extremes in her style of music come from her yin and yang mentality.

Tokimonsta serves up 'future beats' on her post-hip-hop menu


Staff writer

DJ and producer Jennifer Lee, better known as Tokimonsta, is in the business of "future beats."

Lee describes the beats with words like "soulful" and "experimental." She draws on a wide-ranging musical palette to demolish the barriers of genre and create a sound that pushes the boundaries of the post-hip-hop scene.

Lee, 24, is also a member of Los Angeles- based Brainfeeder Records, a label started by revered producer Flying Lotus, and comes to Japan next week as part of the popular Low End Theory event, run by The Gaslamp Killer who is also a part of the Brainfeeder family.

The event is billed as a "psychedelic, glitch, avant-rap, IDM (intelligent dance music) and dubstep night." But Gaslamp Killer told online music website Resident Advisor last month that it's simply "a f-cking beat movement."

Lee recently released her debut album, "Midnight Menu," on Japanese label Listen Up — a subsidiary of Art Union. This, perhaps along with her anime-sounding alias, has led many to believe she herself is Japanese. To dispel any misconceptions, she has Korean ancestry but was born and raised in the L.A. suburbs.

"It's weird when the press perpetuate the notion that I'm Japanese," she says. "They don't ask me, and then they'll go and say that I'm from Tokyo."

The word "toki" means rabbit in Korean, and the "monsta" part is pretty obvious. While she went back and forth whether to spell "monsta" with an "a" or not, she has no doubts that the moniker fits her.

"It explains the mentality behind my music," she says. "It describes my taste in music as well, I have this yin and yang mentality where I like things that are really chill, and I like things that are really angry and obscure."

Lee says her first foray into music was with bands such as Green Day and the other pop-punk that her friends listened to. As a teenager, however, all that changed with her first rap purchase — Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise." From there, hip-hop beckoned.

"I think the strongest influence is the hip-hop, soul, jazz and bossa nova I grew up with, that's the backbone of my music," she explains when asked about the types of music that have inspired her sound. "Of course there's strong electronic and digital elements as well, which is also from my love for IDM and early electronic music."

Lee creates her own samples to use in her performances and productions, and then fills out her sound with her record collection. "I really love adding vinyl snippets here and there, it really adds warmth and dimension to the instrumentation I've done. My live set is mostly an orchestration of my music, but then I always sneak in two or three fun mashups or remixes of songs that I like."

In a digital age where people increasingly get their information about music through websites such as Facebook and Twitter, Lee has been quick to notice the importance of social media.

"I definitely think social networking is integral to where I am right now," she says. "Even if I didn't use any of these sites, other people would be using them to spread the word. For example, I just discovered Last.fm and saw hundreds of comments on a public profile for me. This is an amazing age for communication."

Lee will no doubt attract more fans during her cross-country Japan tour. It will be her first time performing here, though she did come for a short stay in 2007.

"I loved it!" she declares. "I'm extremely excited to be able to come back and explore more of the country. I hope the people that read this will come out to one of my shows in Japan so you can get a real taste of my live set, which should keep you on your toes!"

Tokimonsta performs as part of the Low End Theory event at Sapporo's Duce on Oct. 30; Tower Records in Shinjuku, Tokyo, on Nov. 1; Daikanyama Unit in Tokyo on Nov. 2; and Metro in Kyoto on Nov. 3. She also plays Blow Your Head at Funzone in Tokushima City on Nov. 5; Eats The Cake Presents at Manier in Kanazawa on Nov. 6; and the "Midnight Menu" release party at Soup Ochiai in Tokyo on Nov. 7. For more details, visit www.brainfeedersite.com

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