There is no cool way to ask a rapper whether they have ever had their heart broken. But if you have to, asking MadeinTYO – whose single “Uber Everywhere” has over one hundred million Spotify plays – is a pretty good way to pop your cherry. Since the song’s release, Malcolm Davis, as he is also known, has collaborated with Travis Scott, 2 Chainz, and Big Sean and has been steadily touring and releasing new music. We caught up on the phone while he had some downtime before his show that night in Myrtle Beach.
I have always wondered whether the kind of success that Davis experienced might change an artist’s process, whether it might reinforce certain behaviors or effect one’s creative instincts. “No it doesn’t change my creative process,” he tells me, “it’s just a blessing where the record went, its dope.” Davis’ mixtape You Are Forgiven (via Private Club/Commission) reached 21 on the Billboard rap charts in its first week. He laughs, “I look at myself the same, but I think a lot of other people look at me different, like ‘you’re a platinum recording artist now,’ but I just look at myself as being Tokyo. I’m the same guy.”
Beyond his creative process, a lot of his personal life is also unchanged. Upon asking whether he felt there were politics that come with being a rapper he explained, “Rap is as political as you want to make it. Most of my team is people that I grew up around, like family. So a lot of things are just easy to work. I just create my music, do my thing, and let everything that’s supposed to happen, happen.”
“Uber Everywhere” has its place in a genre whose lo-fi production is a part of the sound and feeling of the record, not dissimilar to Stockholm’s Yung Lean, whose single “Ginseng Strip 2002” went viral in 2013. For all the monetary blows that musicians have weathered from the internet it is very cool that artists like Davis can record something on their own, release it, and far exceed the success of major label releases with production and marketing budgets dwarfing their own.
I ask Davis about the power of a big budget and studio weight. Is it important? “No, I think people just wanna hear good music. It really doesn’t matter when it comes down to it to spend so much money,” he tells me. “A lot of people like raw [music] or like to listen to things live. A lot of mixes – big mixes – don’t hit the engineer until the record is big. You’re like ‘ok, now we’ll get it mixed.’ Like the first mix of “Uber” wasn’t mixed. It was good enough for people to hear and play, plug it up to AUX’s and all of that. It was just me – it wasn’t nobody else. A lot of the time people don’t want to hear super mixed stuff. They want something different.”
We are about halfway through the call, Davis has just eaten a hamburger on the run, and knowing as I do that Supreme Court Justices are more lenient after lunch than before, I think, ‘now’s the time’ …“So have you ever had your heart broken? … And would it ever be a source of inspiration in the way that some of the great albums have been breakup albums?” My mouth turns a little dry and although I close my eyes they are still rolling in their sockets, I expected a long pause but there isn’t one.
“I would say yeah I have, like everybody has. You’re a liar if you haven’t,” he laughs. “You’re not cool if you haven’t had your heart broken. Like you have to go through that in life and I feel that inspires some of my records, even if you listen to “Uber,” or the “I Want” record that I have with 2 Chainz, or the way I said my ex keeps calling or like my ex wants me back, but I won’t call her – like, it sucks to hurt but life’s good. Life’s good over here. It’s always good to reflect on your ex.”
“And was there one big one that it’s all about?” I ask, getting comfortable.
“It’s a couple of girls. You’re a rock star – it has to be a couple of girls. Yeah so it was definitely a couple of girls.” Duh, right, yeah, sorry, stupid question.
At the end of the call Davis spoke about his gratitude for his success, and looking forward to getting off the tour to spend time with his recently born son. Finally I asked him whether the Uber had ever been in touch. “Nah,” he says, “I think my music is too ratchet.”
Written by Danny Pratt
Photographed by Kristiina Wilson
Styled by Rika Watanabe
Groomer: Jessi Butterfield