Artist Spotlight: Tonikaku Jay & Andre2Stacks --Liquid Katanas

Tonikaku Jay & Andre2Stacks are long time collaborators that initially developed a deep respect for each other's musical talents when they met each other in Kyoto, Japan near the Kyoto University of Foreign Studies. They have come together on a dope new collaboration called "Liquid Katanas", a western inspired eastern hip hop album. 

Slime is one of the standout tracks. "At most you get a lick, this dick ain't free." The song talks talks about the duo posted up with their "slimes" and being "steady on the grind." The track has a very subtle Asian influence and a sexy hip hop beat complete with the iconic trap high hats. 

"I associate with Samurai..." 

"I got a couple ninjas that don't wanna fuck with me"

The track Samurai Outro switches back and forth between Japanese and English, which is a vibe within itself. The beat is smooth and mellow. This is definitely a rollin track. 

Andre2stacks has been making waves on Soundcloud, For the last 5 years, he has been consistently creating new music. This flex of creativity also inspired Tonikaku Jay to begin releasing music that he had originally kept on his notes pad and transferring them to a digital format for release. 

With both sharing a love for anime and the Japanese language, Andre2stacks, who at the time had a studio in his hometown of Texas, invited Tonikaku Jay to visit him and record music there when he next came to America. Upon arrival in Texas, they both immediately went to experimenting in the studio, developing a sound sonically original with lyrics laced with Japanese references that stood out from the usual hip-hop flavors of rap music. 

Currently, Tonikaku Jay resides in Japan near Kyoto. Although he's buildng his own studio, the two remained in contact with the promise that once the microphone was set up, they would continue to create music-- this time with the serious DIY effort that instigated them to start creating music in the first place. 

With Andre2Stacks laying down slick verses followed by unique flows and Tonikaku Jay with his Japanese lyrics and control over the vocal production, these two took the beginning of 2020 to the beginning of June, 6 months, to craft what is now here presented as "Liquid Katanas".

You both have unique fashion styles. How would you describe your look? What influences it? 

Andre2Stacks: My look involves a lot of knitted sweaters, anime tees, and random street wear shirts that I find deep diving through the internet. My style has been influenced by 90s anime styles that I love so much. But over all I just be getting articles of clothing that will stand out with an overall Lax style. Most of my money really goes to buying sneakers whenever I do buy new things.

Tonikaku Jay: Westernized-Japanese clothing style. I was raised overseas in the state of Texas in America, where I’m from tends to get pigeonholed by Easterners as the land of the cowboys riding horses with gallon hats and wrangler boots, yet that stigma comes from a more country setting. Growing up in the city there I was exposed to many different fashion senses by both my surroundings in urban life and the stylistics of my late brother who used to dress me and and take me out on the town to bag dames. Once I hit college the world expanded and the decision to choose for myself what to wear took on its own persona, falling into my love for Japanese culture helped me to delve into wearing Western style urban Kimonos along with the anime shirts that served as a reminder for the love of the culture that I work to express in my music.

This year has not turned out the way most would have expected. How have you been impacted personally and creatively by the pandemic? 

Andre2Stacks: The pandemic hasn’t really impacted me very much personally.. with Covid causing shut downs in my state for the past 3 months I no longer needed to go into my server job (thank god) So that gave me a lot of extra time to actually work on Liquid katanas and other songs as well as enjoy my weekends which I rarely got to do. Although I did hate having to finish off the last semester of my graduate program from home.I was also suppose to go link up with the boi Jay in Japan but unfortunately that had to be canceled to until everything blows over.

Tonikaku Jay: The double edged sword that is living in Japan is that we got to put on a mask and keep it pushing. The reality of hard work and giving back to the community perseveres at all costs, with updates on how to keep yourself healthy propping up in the news but no the specifics about what was going on weren’t always crystal clear, more like a murky sports drink hue. Nevertheless being so close to the source many of my concerned American friends and family reached out to check on my safety, and now ironically enough they’re seeming to be the ones in need of a checkup.

I'm seeing protests all over the work to end systemic racism inspired by the death of George Floyd and the #BlackLivesMatter movement. What are your thoughts on the protests and the current racial climate? 

Andre2Stacks: As someone who personally attended these protest I really loved seeing people actually start to release their frustrations against police brutality and finally start speaking up not just on social media. With that being said, even more tension in the air and a clearer divide within the country being fueled by systemic racism both in government and within the communities are now being felt across the country. I’m 100% with defunding the police and allocating those funds to others aspects such as education and healthcare as well as increasing training required to become a police officer. But until that happens it’s FTP.

Tonikaku Jay: My initial response was holing up, in order to effect change the best gift I have is my music. My goal is to allow breathing room in this time of the movement, many concerned citizens are becoming stuffed with propaganda that the need to come up for air to breathe is a true objective of mine, being able to buffer with my art that time will continue to move forward, and that sacrificing myself in a way that unfamiliar to me will not be beneficial to anyone. 

What is your dream musical collaboration? Why? 

Andre2Stacks: “Without sounding cliche and picking a big mainstream artist I would actually love collaborating with Joey Bada$$ been listening to him since before he even blew up and I always loved his style I would just like to see what we could come up with.”

Tonikaku Jay: I have dream collaborations in both Japan and America, I’d have to say my number one collaboration in America would be Drake. This is particularly interesting being able to tell this story for the first time, I had a dream about Drake before, I was sitting in his house after he had invited me in and he showed me this private room filled with record plaques and bottles of expensive liquor, he didn’t say a word at first just allowed me to breath it all in; what he had accomplished and the proverbial finish line that he had run across while still being in depth in his prime. I remember sitting back and this is the crazy part, I put my arms up like a T shape on his chair and was looking around and he gave me this face that said “You in my house, getting cozy and shit? With your sweaty armpits splayed out rubbing ya scent all over my custom leather, you ain’t earned this at all and you really over here relaxing?” That part of the dream was significant to me, albeit embarrassing in the moment, and it spoke to me about my current work ethic and how relaxed I had become in the game. That dream told me that no matter how much I had achieved in the past, not to get comfortable, to be ready for war at all times, proper as men hold themselves in the military, disciplined. Especially in the eyes of someone who had accomplished so much to think that I could just waltz into his place making demands without having proven as much as he had at the time, this was an eye opening dream, no pun intended. More happened in the dream, with me going through various trials that would test the Vices of the average man along with proving my skills in the field yet I still have that dream wrote down in my notes and hope to one day use it as a marker that will show where I’ve come from to the day that that dream is fully realized. 

What advice do you have for independent artists that may just be starting their journey?

Andre2Stacks: A problem that I had and still sorta have is being scared to promote my music whether through shows or even just over social media just because I cared too much about people’s opinions.. if you create a piece of art don’t be scared to share that with the world.. keep writing or producing and do YOUR sound not just what others are flocking too because then your sound just becomes washed out in what everyone is doing and it is no longer unique! Just stay grinding and do what you love.

Tonikaku Jay: Learn about the business, keep creating art, and if you want to make it, the best way is to make it with the people struggling in the pot with you. This recent album couldn’t have been made without the efforts of both parties involved, my role was to make sure that there was a quick turnaround on the music in terms of production and arrangement. With each collaboration or release I’ve done before the speed in which the song is completed has been top priority due to a fundamental knowledge that there’s more to be made. I can’t allow myself to have writer’s block because even if it’s the worst thing I’ve written so far, there will be something inside that is a diamond in the rough that will allow me to keep digging and make something beautiful out of the mud. I got this from Steven Pressfield’s “The War of Art”, which is to stay true to your craft, never commit a sacrifice of your art for the purpose of serving someone else. Art is subjective and the listeners and fans will flock based on the truth you speak from your heart, not the truth coming for a dollar sign attached at the end. With that being said when you find the machine that pumps out coins for the effort you put in, keep putting in the effort and the coins will multiply

Take a listen to "Liquid Katanas"...

Follow Tonikaku Jay & Andre2Stacks on social platforms
Instagram: @andre_2stacks
Twitter: @tonikakujay

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