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Artist Spotlight: Tokyo Cigar

by Travis on June 19, 2009


I used to have fun judging the old remix contests for “I Made A Beat”, it was interesting and I learned a lot about production general just by listening to those tracks. Right now, my man Kev Nottingham has the remix contest game on lock. One cat that has risen through those ranks is Tokyo Cigar. Don’t get me wrong, he is known for more than just those remix contests, but they’ve helped him get his name out there on Al Gore’s glorious internet. Tokyo brings a very broad sound. This cat isn’t easy to lock into one sound. After talking to the cat for the past year, we finally got him in for a long overdue spotlight……

All of Tokyo’s Discography for download in the middle of the interview……

W: What’s good my man, why don’t we get the proper introductions out of the way and let the readers know who you are and what you do….

Tokyo Cigar: Peace this is Tokyo Cigar a.k.a. Akira Parker a.k.a. Your future favorite producer/rapper if everything goes according to plan.

W: So let’s go back to your beginning, what is some of your history? Was there a particular moment that made you say “I want to make hip hop music”?

TC: I started messing with freestlying around 94. I was in boarding school in Ireland and I was a hip hop junkie. It was a hobby. When I moved to Maryland in ’96, I met Stix and Troublefield and started rhyming in cyphers with them. We had a heavy rep in the hood for killing cats with rhymes, then in ’98 I started messing with the beats and decided I could really do this.

W: As you just mentioned, we’ve heard you both behind the boards and on the mic, do you favor one aspect over the other? How does the approach to each differ?

TC: My passion is definitely production now. I just love the whole aspect of making music. I consider myself a less than perfectly sane person with certain things I’ve been through so music has always been therapeutic for me, and making beats really helps me get my emotions out. When people hear my beats they tend to say it makes them FEEL something or that it sounds very emotional.

I still love to rhyme though. I love wilding out on stage and killing a cypher but people say my best songs are my stories. This one kid heard “Halo in Reverse” from my KILL THE VIOLATOR album and said that it made him change his life on some shock therapy shit. I guess the difference is with rhyme you do it for a response where as with beats you can do it for that or for yourself. All I live for everyday is sparking an el and listening to a new beat I just made, that’s happiness to me.

W: You have kind of the dusty throwback vibe to your production. What were some of your influences. What exactly makes a good hip hop beat in your mind?

TC: Oh man RZA is like God to me. Him and 4th disciple are the best producers ever to me. Primo of course, D.I.T.C., Q-Tip, Beatnuts, Large Pro, Heiroglyphics were making a lot of incredible beats between they whole click. Beatminerz, Erick Sermon, El P just cats that made music that had BALLS. I just love shit like how, remember how Dre dropped the beat from “Straight Outta Compton” and the drums alone would make you frown cause it was so aggressive? That’s what i love.

I carry on the tradition of that but I experiment with it and try and add new stuff to the table. A good beat has got to have character to me. It cant just be a beat. It should have a personal stamp on it. That’s why Rza is the best to me cause he had a sound but he made it adapt to whoever he worked with. The beats on Tical wouldn’t fit Cuban Linx because the beats had character that fit the person that got it. Prince Paul is someone else that’s nice with that.

W: Of course, we got to know your tools of the trade when making a beat.

TC: Fruity loops 3, FLstudio 7, M audio oxygen 8 keyboard, sound forge, music maker, Plugins, inspiration, water, good trees, snacks for the munchies, 1989 ninja turtles re runs and life.

W: I think I’ve asked this question to just about every producer type folk I’ve spoken to, but what’s your take on the whole Hardware Vs Software debate?

TC: To each his own. I incorporate my keyboard to get that live feel so it’s like a bootleg Asr 10 type set up. I prefer software cause it’s easier to work with. I have my sounds ready and on Fruity loops. I can do everything I need to a beat without me having to load this disk or that disk. The funny thing is I give utmost respect to the hardware cats cause thinking of how the bomb squad made “fight the power” on sp 1200′s makes my brain hurt. Cats need to stop fronting on fruity loops though. If you don’t like it, whatever. Just don’t hate on cats that do. Everything I’ve ever put out was made on fruity loops. That shit is my rod and my staff.

W: A lot of your projects and production has to do with remixes. What makes a remix difficult than crafting a new beat? What makes it easier than a beat from “scratch” so to say…

TC: I hate the actual act of doing remixes but I love hearing them when I’m done. I hate the whole matching the tempo thing. That shit’s a headache. If I had the tempo told to me then it’s a different story. I do love the aspect of putting your own vision with somebody else. It’s so ill when you can put your own spin on a song. I love the challenge of finding the right musical emotion to go with the song.

W: You’ve dropped several projects, such
as the Wu-Tang remix project (T
he 9 Diagram Phoenix) Your own personal project, The Seven Year Theory, the Depeche Mode tribute, Kill The Violator, and the latest P Diddy Invented The Remix Tokyo Directed It. Can you fill in the blanks with those projects along with anything that I might have missed. Especially the Depeche Mode project, which I found real interesting.

TC: No doubt I’ll do a run down of everything. Tuck yourselves in kids cause it’s a doozy.
AZ A.W.O.L remix album
This is the genesis, the first remix album I ever did. The sound is very visual and cinematic. The goal was to make a movie with this joint. Apart from vocal clips all the music is self made.

JOE BUDDEN MOOD MUSIK 3 remix album
This is my ode to emotion. Jump off was kicking real life so my beats on here are some of my most emotional ones out. A some joints are creepy (Hiatus, Secrets ) some are angry (Warfare, Ventilation) But the main point is emotion. Vocal samples and self made music.

NAS GOD SONS TOKYO DRIFT remix album
Nas had a lot of somber joints on the original so I went for a hardcore feel. This is my bar fight/secret again project. Some tracks are laid back (Thugs Mansion, I can, Dance) but the general theme is raw aggressiveness. Self made music and vocal samples.

TOKYO CIGAR THE MEGAMAN THEORY EP
This project came about from and overdose of beats and rhymes. I hadn’t put out a solo CD for years at this point so it was a reintroduction to the fact that I rhymed. The rhymes vary from stories, to dart throwing joints. Production is a split between my soulful joints and a little bit of my futuristic/electronica/rock sound. Self made music with vocal samples too.

TOKYO CIGAR & DEPECHE MODE KILL THE VIOLATOR
This was the first project I put together with sampling. I had just started sampling so I wanted to test myself by picking one album and challenging myself to make a project from one source. This chick I was messing with gave me the CD and I fell in love with the music on it. I rocked the album so much that I decided to use it. The first CD I chose to sample from in it’s entirety was The White Album by the Beatles (those beats turned up on the remix album I did for Notion ) but halfway through that I put it to the side and used the Depeche mode album instead. I rhymed on it cause I loved how it turned out. The original Violator albums is one of the best albums of all time to me, I loved how it was dark and yet beautiful. Depeche Mode really made a masterpiece and so I had to make sure this joint was serious in terms of my production cause it was a lot to live up to. The rhymes pretty much summed up my mind state at the time from living in Columbia (especially the song Clean Soul). The lyrics had more of a paranoid theme to them but it is what it is.

WU TANG CLAN THE 9 DIAGRAM PHEONIX remix album
This joint is love right here. I been such a Wu fiend that I had to bring my A game to this joint. The sound is straight caveman barbarian. I chose the songs I did cause I wanted to show the brilliance of their Post 97 work. Have them shine solo then bring the clan together on the last track. Self made music and vocal samples.

NOTION & THE BEATLES THE WHITE AUSTRALIAN ALBUM remix album
I did these beats around the same time as the Kill the violator album. I was buggin of how hot the white album was then decided to re flip the songs (whut up Danger mouse, I see you playboy Peace ) I had the beats stashed then when I saw the remix contest for Notion I checked out his songs and seen he did a joint called White Australian then the idea hit me like DING!!!! Everything came together lovely ( I won a spot on the Soul Movement remix CD for my remix of “new wave” )

TOKYO CIGAR presents THE 7 YEAR THEORY
This joint is a snapshot of 7 years of making music. It has collaborations and remixes I did. It’s a real trip down memory lane for me cause it shows the people I came up with. It shows my production from back then till now. It ranges from straight hip hop to electronica and industrial stuff too. Half samples, half original stuff, it’s more of a mixtape than a project.

TOKYO CIGAR presents THE REMIX P.DIDDY INVENTED IT TOKYO DIRECTED IT
I had these beats laying round I wanted to really make moves with. Then I saw this clip on youtube with Diddy dropping a lot of science about making albums. I was so zoned out t
hat I decided to base the album around it. I used the beats and picked the remixes I wanted to do with em. The sound is grimy but melodic. Half samples half original. Very fun to do.

W: With projects coming every few months it seems, I know you got a few shots up in the chamber yet still, what can we expect from Tokyo Cigar in the near future?

TC: I’m doing an EP with my man Camillio called The Ivy League. It’s straight electronica mixed with spoken word. I’m producing an EP for an MC called Mercy. Very grimy ill hip hop sound. I sold a couple of beats to various cats and I got a couple of placement on upcoming joints. Part 2 of The 7 year theory. An instrumental album as Akira Parker and my official Tokyo Cigar solo album which has what i consider my best production ever. I’m also collaborating with some producers on their albums too on some straight rhyming shit. I’m down to do another Black Tobacco album with my man Dutchmasters too. The Snares and Cinema album we did has some of my best rhymes on it. I had mad fun doing that album.

W: You’ve made a nice little name for yourself around the blog circuit, how do you approach getting your name out and how does the internet help you do that?

TC: The remix contests help a lot. Also cats like you that give a brother a chance. The net is crazy cause it’s a double edged sword. It makes things easier but it floods the road to the pot of gold. I stay consistent with putting out stuff and collaborating with cats. That helps me get out there a lot. The blog era is crazy. It really levels the playing field. Big up to WYDU, Kevin Nottingham (whut up Kev, Thomas, Carsten and the crew) and all the rest. Yall cats really keep the real shit alive and accessible to people.

W: Any last words you want to say to any non believers, future fans and groupies?

TC: To the non believers. Eat a dick.

To future fans. Enjoy the music. I’m a geek when it comes to the music so you gonna get nothing but the pure shit.

To rappers hit me up at TOKYOCIGARTALK@GMAIL.COM I got beats for sale. Yall heard what i give away free imagine what i charge for. Hit me up we can work together and make some classics.

To future groupies. I bring the condoms you bring yourself we can work out the details later.
And To Travis. Good looking out playboy. I wish you all the best. Good looking out for holding the kid down.

Cats should check out my blog http://tokyocigarmusic.blogspot.com/ for updates and random flyshit. Plus I’m working on making that my spot where you can buy beats from me. I am in no way as skilled at blogging as my man Travis but if you want to know what the kid is up to hit me up there.

Also I got the myspace too http://www.myspace.com/tokyocigarstyle hit me up.
Peace to my family ( Ivy rest in peace ), my crew and all the real people out in the world.
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Anonymous October 17, 2009 at 7:23 am

Dope interview Tokyo. Didn't realise you put so much fire out… Pleasure to work with you too!! Keep bangin…
FlamesYall'

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