Interview: Toki Wright

Toki Wright (Minneapolis)
By Kandis Knight

“We get raised by the radio and the television more than our parents. It’s fucked up. And while we sit and play up a lifestyle that is killing us, we get blamed for all the wrongs in society while somebody sits up in an office and collects a bigger check off of it and never gets blamed.” –Toki Wright

Minneapolis emcee, Toki Wright, is bigger than hip-hop. Wright is the President of YO! The Movement, a non-profit, international youth leadership organization based in Minneapolis, MN. Wright also heads up The Twin Cities Celebration of Hip-hop which attracts an international crowd of thousands and is in its sixth year of production. Most recently, Wright has captured headlines representing Midwest hip-hop in war torn regions of Africa.

Armed with his music and his message, Wright has been fighting for people who are “down and out” and as he does his star is quickly rising to the forefront of the contemporary conscious hip-hop movement. Wright’s future is big and bright in spite of his humble beginnings. “I was born and raised in Minnesota. I spent a small amount of time in St. Louis and Chicago. My father moved up from the Robert Taylor housing projects on the Southside Chicago, where my family spent all their lives. He took a big chance,” says Wright, who is well known as the humble gentleman and crusader for the working people.

Wright’s mother introduced him to hip-hop as a child. “Growing up in my house you heard a lot of The Gap Band and Michael Jackson. My mother is a big MJ head,” he laughs. “My mother actually put me on to Hip-Hop. One day she brought home the Fat Boys “Crushin’” tape.” My oldest brother put me up on NWA and Slick Rick. We used to steal his tapes while he was gone. Hip-hop soon took over the house.

As a preteen Wright moved around extensively, making his transition into world class citizen easy. “I used to always say that I had moved 15 times by the time I was 15.” In St. Louis, Wright first stepped to the mic and found his calling, however the world slowly came crashing down around him.

“My parents moved from Chicago to Minnesota to work for a company that eventually laid them off. I was on the street at fourteen. I had to learn how to take care of myself early.”

Today Wright takes care of the community, a decorated community activist and loyal hip-hop supporter, Wright takes his power as an emcee seriously. “We get paid to play ourselves. We get caught up in making music for commercial radio and the next generation thinks that this is the way we need to live our lives. I think people need to respect the pioneers, KMOJ Radio, and especially the North Side of Minneapolis. These are major players that hardly get shown love.”

Wright is currently working on his mix cd called LBHQ 3.0 (Low Budget High Quality). “I am still working on my full length album. That’s why I’m doing the LBHQ 3.0 mix cd, to keep people interested until I finish my full length project.”

LBHQ will be a part of a series that is still top secret. The new album is called “A Different Mirror” which is about looking at yourself through the perspective of others and having to deal with it and “Soul Searching” from my group The C.O.R.E. is an album about trying to find your soul through your music when people have given up on that deeper aspect of making music. “Home” from group APHRILL is about living your life far from the place of your origin and features fellow Twin Cities artists Nomi, and Medium Zach.

“I plan on releasing LBHQ 3.0 in March, then my album “A Different Mirror” in May, The C.O.R.E.’s “Soul Searchin’” will be released in the spring, and APHRILL’s “Home” will come out as soon as we can pay for it.” Wright is also working on The Chosen Few (TCF) crew album. The Chosen Few is one of Minneapolis’ hottest hip-hop groups comprised of DJ Snuggles, Fic, Guardians of Balance, The C.O.R.E., Illuminous 3, King Karnov, Mazta I, Trama,, Reg E Reg, and DJ Fu Manchu.

Wright is also has shows coming up with Saul Williams and Brother Ali. You can also check Wright out hypemanning for Brother Ali’s tour for his new album “The Undisputed Truth.” Pick it up when it comes out. Instant classic.

When Wright is not on the road or performing, you can find him working hard in the studio with a slew of extraordinary musicians and producers including; Benzilla, Reg E Reg, King Karnov, Mr. Len of Dummy Smacks Records/Company Flow, Rock City, and Lazerbeak of Doomtree.

“I don’t think most people really know my work. I get a lot of judgment based on songs that are 3-years-old. I have yet to really let people hear what I’m talking about. I also like to have a party at the shows. No offense but they’re not some ‘neo-soul’ gigs like people try to paint me to be. Most of the people that say that have never even seen or heard me.”

Wright’s advice to new artists is stern. “Play in front of people that don’t like you before you get on stage. Play in front of all Black, White, Asian, Latino, crunk, “neo-soul,” mainstream crowds. Find out what it’s like to get shit on and booed. Correct your mistakes and step your game up. Don’t just listen to your friends. They might just be trying to make you feel good.”

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