When you’re a classically trained female musician and Kool Keith guests on your record rapping about the NYPD, that might be a sign you’ve arrived. But for L.A. producer TOKiMONSTA, it’s a natural progression that the Black Elvis wants to be a part of her program.
TOKiMONSTA is Jennifer Lee, who began with symphonic piano and is now full up on street cred with hot dance movements and club personalities. Her new record, Half Shadows, comes out on Ultra Music this week.
Release parties at Williamsburg Music Hall and in San Francisco celebrate the R&B electronica offering that feels at once global and nostalgic for the '90s. With smoothed-out instrumentals and sexy guest vocalists, broken beat and synth sound off alongside house-y build ups on one track, while bells and bleeps combine with harmonies on another. MNDR makes an appearance on "Go With It," a Santigold-esque pop jam with a steel drum chorus and a sci-fi video.
Instrumentals flow not unlike Flying Lotus compositions; logical considering the artist is a member of his Brainfeeder roster and honed her live chops at the L.A. weekly Low End Theory. A personal favorite is "Moon Rise," featuring vocalist Jesse Boykins III channeling George Michael. Flush with strings, "Moon Rise" shows off TOKiMONSTA’s seamless production style.
While previous records felt more raw and beat-crunchy, the latest effort is all smooth, half-salt peanut butter. "Half Shadows" is on Ultra Music, the same eminent dance label that takes over Miami every March. Jennifer Lee’s music has been called instrumental hip-hop, psychedelic electronica and avant-rap. This time out, it is cinematic and velvet. The new record tinkles and swells, peaking around the shadows in geometric color and pop.