When MadeinTYO picks up the phone, he’s waiting for a checkup at the dentist’s office — out on tour with A$AP Ferg and Tory Lanez, his mouth has been bothering him. This is a small setback in an otherwise sterling year: “Uber Everywhere,” a resolute celebration of a single form of automotive transport, has given MadeinTYO his very first hit. Billboard caught up with the rapper to talk about his upbringing, the best Uber rides, and his relationship with Atlanta.
How old are you and where did you grow up?
I’m 24, I just turned 24 in April. My pops was in the military so I moved every three years. I was born in Hawaii, lived in San Diego, moved to DMV [D.C., Maryland and Virginia] area. Then from there I moved to Japan from ninth grade to a year out of high school. Then I moved to Atlanta. This year I just moved back to the L.A. area.
And your name comes from your time in Tokyo?
I feel like high school is the years you grow up, the years you find yourself. That’s the stuff that made me — getting in trouble, going off base, going to Tokyo and partying.
What were parties like Tokyo?
Tokyo’s like New York. Just the Asian version. You’ve got a mixture of everybody — people from New York, Miami, Brazil. All these nationalities in one room, but they’re all hip to the Atlanta playlist. Japan appreciates the music more, so I enjoyed that.
You listened to a lot of American rap over there?
Yeah and I was also getting hip to other music in the clubs — house music and all of that.
When did you start making your own beats?
I would say four or five years ago. But this year I started getting serious with it and getting my beats to artists that I really want to work with. I just got off Facetime with Metro. We’re workin’. It’s super exciting. Me and Southside are working too.
What about rapping, when did you start that?
When my dad was working at the Pentagon, my cousin Juan bought me and my brother Rizzy a microphone. We started recording then.
How did you start working on “Uber Everywhere”?
I was online and listening to K. Swisha’s page. I downloaded some and recorded a couple of them. One of those beats was “Uber.” It was just a verse at first and people liked it when I laid it down — this was in the kitchen/living room of my house. I waited like a month and put another verse on it. The song really wasn’t about Uber, but the hook of it was catchy, and I was saying Uber, and I looped it. I was taking less Ubers before the song; now I’m taking more. I was just having fun. I think my core fan base doesn’t listen to “Uber” no more.
What did you like about the beat?
It had a mixture of Guwop and Super Mario. It reminds me every time I hear it – I’ve never been mad playing a video game. It felt like just being in a good place, but it still had a dirty feel to it. And it just made me dance. Anything that makes me dance and move, I feel like it’ll make other people dance and move.
Did Uber reach out to you after the song became a hit?
Nothing super official. But I feel like after so many people ask me about Uber, eventually they’re gonna reach out to do something.
You don’t get free rides?
No, but because I had my song, I put my promo code out [to refer new users] and people have been using it. Today I looked at my phone and I had like a lot of free rides. But I’m flying more anyways. I seen they were talking about something like a jet Uber coming soon.
What’s the best Uber ride you ever took?
I guess the best ones are the ones that’s free. Other than that — every time I’m in an Uber, I’m always in a rush. But when you got the aux chord, you got the AC on, they might have waters in the back, candy — if you get all of that? That’s a good ride. I get a couple of those sometimes. But not everybody gets five stars.
Why do you feel like “Uber” has become a success?
Cause it’s Uber. Everybody is riding Uber.
Do you worry about becoming a one-hit wonder?
I got a few records that are already doing good. I haven’t put them up for sale, they’re just on SoundCloud. I have a record with 2 Chainz, another with Ty Dolla $ign, and I’m getting ready to put the remix video out for “Uber Everywhere.”
The video for “Uber Everywhere” is not what you would expect.
I didn’t want to do the typical — “Oh, he has an Uber, he’s in the Uber, he’s driving.” I wanted to capture normal life playing tennis and wearing a turtleneck by the lake. You probably thought I was going to be around a whole bunch of chicks. I wanted to make it where everybody could do it. It’s realistic, not flex. You’re not gonna always have the Magic City strippers and the Ferraris.
How do you feel you fit in with the Atlanta rap scene?
I lived there, so I appreciate it. That’s where my music started popping off. I’m part of that young movement in the mixture of me, Lil Yachty, Playboi Carti. Musicians always want to be like, “This is where I’m from, this is what I rep.” But I’ve never had that, because my pops is in the military. So when people call me an Atlanta artist, it’s like, there a lot of other rappers right now that would hate someone calling me an Atlanta artist — they grew up here. I moved everywhere, so I got something different in the mix. I’ll listen to a Gucci Mane song and then put a Calvin Harris song on. It’s a mixture of sauce. Like Gucci said, you gotta have the sauce.
Do you remember the first time you heard yourself on the radio?
The funny thing is, just recently. And I’ve only heard it like four times. It was dope. I was just smiling. It’s so awkward. People can listen to me on when they don’t even have to pull it up — the song just comes on.
Does your dad support your music career?
Heavily — both of my parents do. My dad just retired and he’s about to become part of my management team. It’s amazing. I’m blessed man. At the end of the day, I’m blessed. The “Uber” record, I was just having fun.
A version of this article originally appeared in the June 18 issue of Billboard.