Remember “Uber Everywhere”? The infectious ode to ridesharing and women took off in 2016, just as the mumble rap wave was cresting. And though that song is still MadeinTYO’s most recognizable, the young rhymer has been working hard ever since to push his art to higher levels.
MadeinTYO (pronounced “Made in Tokyo”—more on that later) has only been in the game a few years, but he’s put that time to good use, building bridges and scoring features from big dogs like A$AP Ferg, Big Sean and 2 Chainz. He’s spent the two years since his breakthrough hit in the studio—three mixtapes and two EPs are testament to his drive—and released his first full-length, Sincerely, Tokyo, last week.
Here are five things you ought to know about MadeinTYO.
He spent his formative years in Japan
Yes, MadeinTYO is just what it says on the tin. Born in Atlanta, the rapper was a military brat, and bounced around when he was a child. He spent six years of his adolescence growing up on an army base in Yokosuka, which is in the greater Tokyo area, and kicked it in the infamous Roppongi district on the weekends. After he graduated from high school, he spent a year exploring and immersing himself in the country, the best of American hip hop pumping through his headphones.
MadeinTYO found Japan very conducive to self-expression, he told Hypebeast. “I feel like in Japan they’re not afraid to tell you, ‘Ahh, I like your shoes’ or ‘I like your hair.’ There’s really no filter on it.” And his love of the country and its culture has bled into his art, whether it’s the hook of “Moshi Moshi” off the latest album, or the Attack on Titan reference in his “I Want” music video.
He’s not a SoundCloud rapper, but it was crucial to his rise
MadeinTYO is no mumble rapper. He’s never wallowed in the narcotized style that “SoundCloud rap” is known for, and the varied features on Sincerely, Tokyo—from A$AP Ferg to Blood Orange to Tinashe—show his desire to break out of the mold.
But the streaming platform was still crucial to his early success. As Forbes points out, “Uber Everywhere” took off on SoundCloud, where it was uploaded in 2015, months before it was released as an official single. MadeinTYO has even dubbed the track the “OG SoundCloud record.” “If they had SoundCloud awards, like for the top 100? It’d be top 100,” he told Pigeons & Planes.
He’s all about spotting and collaborating with talent
MadeinTYO’s always been down to build, notching up countless collabs with big names, some of which still remain in the vault. (Fingers crossed we see more of MadeinTYO’s work with Metro Boomin.) But he also works with plenty of artists under the radar, and has a particular knack for befriending sleeper talent.
For instance, MadeinTYO had already worked with Juice WRLD and 070 Shake as early as 2016, two years before both artists blew up: Juice off “Lucid Dreams” and Shake thanks to her her scene-stealing turn on Kanye West’s “Ghost Town.”
MadeinTYO often connects with artists in person, but he’s also like any other rap-obsessed digital native when it comes to talent-spotting. “Before I was on any of these blogs, Complex, Pigeons & Planes, any of these, I was a fan. I was a fan of these blogs,” he explained to P&P. “So I looked at these artists, and went from them to see similar artists. Went to their websites, went to Last.fm and searched an artist’s name and click ‘similar’ and I’d look at all those artists. That’s my routine.”
He’s got his own label, Private Club Records
With that kind of ear for talent, it’s not entirely surprising that MadeinTYO has his own label, Private Club Records, that releases his music and signs new artists. The tight-knit label’s a family affair: It was founded by his brother, 24hrs (formerly Rolls Royce Rizzy), and one of its artists is Salma Slims, 24hrs’ wife.
Private Club artists pop up on Sincerely, Tokyo—24hrs raps on “Lil Bih,” while DWN2EARTH produced “On the Map” and “Margiela Problems.” And MadeinTYO’s always on the lookout for new artists. “I’m listening to everything, because I’m a businessman. I might end up signing somebody. You never know what the case is,” he told P&P.
Sincerely, Tokyo may be his last album
Bright stars burn briefly. In April, the rapper tweeted that his first album would be his last—and that he would be moving to Japan. He elaborated further on Instagram: “I have accomplished things I never thought I could… Better yet I’m able [to] take care of my family for the rest of my life. One of my biggest goals in life is done ❤️”
It’s only been a week since the album dropped, and MadeinTYO is scheduled to headline tours across North America and Europe next year. Will the rapper really retire—and move across the world—after that? Only time will tell. But for now, we have a brand-new album to savor.
Stream Sincerely, Tokyo here.