From its subject matter, to its cover, Sincerely, Tokyo is an obvious homage to Japan, where he spent a good chunk of his teenage years. “I feel like that moment in ninth grade, moving to Japan, literally sparked my whole me,” MadeInTYO tells Billboard. “If I would have never moved to Japan and if my pops was never in the military, none of this vibe would have happened to me.” He even plans to move there with True one day to teach him some of the Japanese customs that were an instrumental part of his growth.
MadeInTYO stopped by Billboard to discuss the new album, the true meaning of being a dad and more. Check out the full conversation below.
The two singles you dropped to prep everyone for the project have the album sounding crazy already. What was that studio session like with A$AP Ferg for “Ned Flanders”?
We were both on tour at the time and it just so happened that our shows were booked on the same day at the same venue, but in different rooms. It was stupid because people thought that it was the same show and I was just a part of their show, too, so people didn’t come to my show like that. Rocky’s show was before mine, and mine was the late show. Only a few people got the memo that I had my own show afterwards.
It was frustrating but in the midst of all that, it was a blessing in disguise. When I pulled up to the city, everybody jumped on my tour bus because I had a studio on my bus. Rocky and Ferg laid verses on separate songs. Ferg came in and was like, “You got something separate for me? I want a MadeInTYO record. I want that next record from you.” So, I played him “Ned Flanders,” and he literally just laid it. The thing is, some people could do that, but there’s nobody in the room. With him, he did it with everybody there and girls in the room, on a bus he’s never been on. This all happened that day of the show. This was the same day we did the DVD where we freestyled with Lil Flip with Rocky. That was for Rocky’s birthday.
Smooky Margielaa was on my bus and I don’t even know how he got there. He just be everywhere [laughs]. I love it. He’s like, “Boom. We recording? Where the studio at?” I love the young, aggressive, New York guy. He’s like, “Are we recording or nah?” and I’m like, “Yo, how’d you get on my bus?” He’s super dope, talented and hungry. Then, A$AP Ant, A$AP Twelvyy, A$AP Nast rolled in. Then Ferg is like, “What you got for me?”
What’s one verse you can’t wait for everyone to hear and why?
I want people to hear the last record, the outro. It’s the one with Tinashe, but also a secret Roy Woods feature. I wanted his feature to be a surprise. I want people to hear it because I’m just really, really rapping on that record.
I was actually about to bring up the Roy Woods collab. His energy is just--
Let me tell you something about Roy. When you hear his music, it’s all smooth and sexy. Then, you meet Roy and he’s like that fun kid brother, full of energy and hype. His music has so much smoothness and weight to it, and in person he’s like, “Hey! What are we doing, ay? What do you mean?!” [Laughs] You just want to be in a room with him. I know why Drake likes him and OVO likes him and want him around. He has that young energy. He brought me out two nights in a row at the Staples Center. He didn’t have to do that. Kobe performs at Staples Center. I remember going to Toronto with Roy and him taking me to the OVO Store and all of that. He’s an amazing artist, and before that, he’s an amazing person.
The album title Sincerely, Tokyo kind of alludes to how you’ve been saying you want to move back to Japan. Have you thought about raising your son there?
My son is two right now, but I want to wait. I do definitely want him to have a couple years there. I want him to see the Tokyo Tower before he’s 10, and I want him to learn how to use chopsticks and shit like that before he’s six. I feel like that moment in 9th grade, moving to Japan, literally sparked my whole me. The creative process -- people wouldn't know this and they wouldn’t know this MadeInTYO. If I would have never moved to Japan and if my pops was never in the military, none of this vibe would have happened to me. Moving every three years, meeting new people, it’s easy for me to talk like this. It’s easy for me to open up in interviews like this.
The cover art shows a lot of elements from Japanese culture. Could you tell me more about the creative direction for it and Verdy, the designer?
Verdy is so fire. He’s a Japanese artist and he’s been collaborating with everybody. He just did a collab with Nike. Japan is really putting their arms around him and embracing him as the new staple as far as clothes. There’s long lines outside to sell his merch. Branding-wise, he’s super fire as a designer. The idea of that cover was to capture some influence from my favorites, such as M.I.A.’s covers.
How have you been able to balance the life of being a dad with this music life?
If you want to just be a father, it’s easy. I was having this conversation with my homegirl the other day and she said she has a father and a dad. If you want to be a father, you have sex. If you want to be a dad, now that’s a title. A real dad. You realize on shows they say, “You are the father!” But that’s different than being a dad. For me, it’s easy being a dad too. I really wanted to be. I never had a problem.
When I found out I was going to be a dad, it was never a problem. I was super happy. Then, when I found out I was having a boy, I was even more happy. I’m like, I’m Super Dad. I’m buying T-shirts, everything. I’m geeked. Being a dad in general is harder than being a father. Almost anyone can be a father and have a kid, but it’s harder to be a dad and be around and be there. It’s hard, but if you wanna do it, it’s simple.
Because your dad was in the military, I can imagine that affected your life in a lot of different ways. In what ways do you see those effects still manifesting to this day?
I think about this in even the smallest situations, like when I was trying to hail a taxi today in New York City, which is something that’s so natural for someone here. When I’m under pressure in different situations, I learned to take my power back being comfortable admitting I’m nervous. You take it back. People don’t like admitting it, but when you say it, you’re actually confident in saying that. It’s like if someone calls you short, then say, “Alright, my new nickname is MadeInShort.” If they say you’re ugly, say you love being the ugliest rapper. Capture those moments, and make them your positives. Those moments that I deal with, I own them. I tell people I’m nervous and I put that out there. There are probably thousands of kids that are from Japan or overseas that come here didn’t know how to do some simple New York shit like hail a taxi. There’s a lot of people that probably felt the same way that I felt.
Around this time last year was the first time I ever saw you perform. It was at the XXL Freshman Concert in NYC. How much has your life changed since this time last year?
It’s funny you mention that because so many people lately have been messaging me just this last week saying things like, “On this day last year, I was at your show on Big Sean’s tour!” I think it’s because a lot of people were getting their “one year ago” memory thing on Snapchat, but I’ve literally been getting that all of last week. It’s amazing. It’s amazing to hear them say they saw me this time last year, and they can’t wait to see me again next year.
On some music shit, honestly, you don’t expect people to fuck with your shit when you first start out. Everyone wonders if the world is going to like your shit. There was a moment where my pops didn’t even like my music. It’s amazing to flip it around. I remember a year where I didn’t put my music out and I was getting cheated on and all that. A year and a half later, “Uber Everywhere” is literally on every site and it’s on the charts.
Every year changes. Everyone gets their time. Whatever you’re doing, stay true to it. You manifest it. If you’re positive and you treat people the right way, I feel like God doesn’t just have us alive for no reason. God doesn’t just have us sitting here. You have your moment. It’s going to come. It’s going to all come full circle if you really stick with it. If you’re honest with yourself and you stick to your craft, anybody can do it. Don’t give up, because if our favorite people gave up, they wouldn’t be our favorite people. There would be none of this if people were like, “Damn, I can’t do this.”
My little brother was the one who told me to finish “Uber Everywhere.” I’m talking like in my kitchen/living room, sock on, beater, and I’m telling my mom to please be quiet while cooking because I’m trying to record. My little brother was like, “Please finish this last verse. People are going to love this one.” And it changed my life.