Tokyo Jetz is finally getting the respect she deserves. Being the first lady of T.I.’s Grand Hustle imprint speaks volumes in itself, and the Florida rapper fills those shoes proudly. Beyond her fire bars, she’s a mother, a newfound author, and overall boss.
Born Shauntrell Pender, Tokyo has been steadily building her fanbase, which began to grow because of freestyle videos in her car. Her lyrics were aggressive, real, dramatic, and most importantly, unapologetic. Hailing from Jacksonville, Florida; she comes from humble beginnings. But, music was her way out.
With 1.6 million followers on Instagram alone, the recording artist demands attention. Her energy screams confidence, talent, and authenticity, something her fans have cherished since day one. With her new book “Mind Over Matter,” she opens up about her own journey with mental health and gives hope to the masses that they too can overcome their struggles — no matter what the circumstances.
REVOLT caught up with Tokyo Jetz via FaceTime, who was hiding from five kids in her bathroom in Atlanta (her own child along with nieces and nephews). Read below as we discuss her new book, the #RespectChallenge, life before the fame, her career, motherhood, and more!
Being from Jacksonville, how does that influence you?
I think it’s cliche to talk about where I come from. There’s so many people talking about, “I come from the hood.” It was hard. But at the same time, everybody has it hard.
Who were you listening to coming up?
Nicki [Minaj] for sure. Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, people like them might have been a little bit before me, before I was listening to music. Nicki all day, every day.
What’s your favorite Nicki song?
“Itty Bitty Piggy.” This is when I was young as heck, I’m like wow. We used to rap it and take turns rapping it.
Bring us back to when you were making freestyle videos in your car. What were those days like?
When I first started rapping [in] my car, I was working at Apple. A lot of people don’t know that though. That’s probably my favorite job that I’ve ever had. I haven’t had a lot, probably only four jobs. I did technical support for Apple. I loved it until I got fired.
What’d you get fired for?
I’ve always had a whole lot of followers, I had 300K and some change. I used to post on my instagram while I was at work. One day, they happened to see my Instagram. The operations manager fired me. I used to make a lot of videos at Apple, so I was asking for it.
Where else did you work?
I worked at Comcast before, then I was a waitress. I loved/hated it, it had its day. The tips for sure.
I was bumping “The One” two years ago. How have you evolved since?
At that time, I was taking a lot of suggestions from people around me on what I should and shouldn’t do. Now, I’m more focused on making Tokyo happy. I’m going with the flow. If it feels good to me, then I’m doing it. I’ll worry about the consequences later.
Do you feel like you finally got the “Respect”? Pun intended.
I do for sure. People respect me in general. It’s more so how I carry myself, how I present myself to people. If I presented it a different way, they might run with that and that’d be what it is. But, I force them to respect me. And if you don’t, then Tip forces you to respect me. People respect me because of my demeanor, my personality, and how I carry myself.
How’s your relationship with Tip?
It’s great besides when he tries to act like a dad. It’s good, we have a business relationship. We also have a personal relationship, they mesh well together. If we didn’t have that personal relationship, I don’t think it would work.
How is it being the first lady of Grand Hustle?
It’s dope. I get to make a lot of decisions myself, decisions that most artists don’t get to make on their own. I get to decide when to release new music, when I want to record, what I want to put out, what I want to shoot music videos to, what I want to spend money on. A lot of artists don’t have that luxury.
How’s it feel to have the #RespectChallenge go crazy?
I wasn’t expecting that to happen. It reminded me of when we put out “No Problem” because the same thing happened with that. A lot of people were asking for the beat to it to speak their mind. That’s what happened.
What was the most fire one you saw?
I had one from Lady London. She’s dope as hell, hers went crazy.
What inspired “SODD (Sit on Dat Dick)”?
Mike WiLL brought me the beat with the sample already on it. He’s like, “You can take it without the sample on here, but I really like this.” I said, “Okay let me hear.” Every time I played it, people started dancing to it. So, we left it on there.
What was the studio session with Mike Will like?
He’s dope as hell. His studio’s like a warehouse. He has an art museum in the back of his warehouse, which is really dope. Me and Tip met him when he was doing an event at a skatepark, there were a lot of skater kids there. He said, “Hey, I have some stuff that I want you to get on.” We went to the studio after. He gave us a tour of the art, then we had the session. The whole day was an experience in itself.
Do you have go-to producers?
I have my own producer I work with. Matt works with a lot of other artists though. When he’s not recording me, he’s probably recording for Lil Baby. We’ve been working together for a while. We mesh really well. I like working with Matt.
Wait, so did the Stimulus Pack EP drop or no?
I was supposed to put out a project, but because of Corona[virus], my rollout got messed up. We’re supposed to do press in New York, press in L.A., but it stopped a lot of stuff. To put the full potential into my project, we stopped that. My fans were still expecting music, so we decided to drop one every Thursday for four Thursdays to form an entire project. The last Thursday, we’re going to put out two songs and a video, too.
What’s the significance in the title Stimulus Pack?
Everything going on right now. Everybody waiting on their money.
How has quarantine been for you?
I’ve been quarantining before Corona[virus]. I’m a homebody. If I do shows, I fly in the day of. Fly out the next morning, I go back home. I’m comfortable. I’ve seen a lot of stuff and I get paranoid fast. I don’t do any type of drugs, I go out sober. When people are having fun, I’m just like, “Alright.”
Have you picked up any new hobbies or interests?
I’ve been on TikTok a whole lot. My nephew plays Roblox everyday, so I’m learning how to play Roblox.
How was linking with Plies on “Six Flags”?
Before “Six Flags,” I did one of Plies’ records with him called “I Know When You Lyin.” Plies is one of the people who knew I was pregnant. I might’ve told Tip the day before Plies found out. We shot the video on a yacht when I was four months pregnant. I got super sick, it was horrible. But, we made it look amazing. Plies is a real character, he’s funny as hell.
Best memory from that shoot?
There’s a padded area in the front of the yacht, we have these mini ukuleles and we’re dancing with them. He’s trying to show me how to dance, but I’m so busy trying to hide my stomach that it’s not working.
Congrats on releasing your book “Mind Over Matter.” How’s it feel to have it sell out in a day?
I was not expecting that. We printed a certain amount of copies, I was planning for that to be it. We sold all those in a day, so we have to go back and do that all over again. It’s a lesson though.
How was your experience writing it?
I started writing it over a year ago. I know I was still pregnant. I’d start and stop for so long that the project took a really long time. Once I stopped doing my shows because I was too big to be performing while I was pregnant, that’s when I actually had time to sit down and finish it. I enjoyed writing my book a whole lot. I actually started writing my second book. The first one was about me growing up and realizing different things around me, how people work up until me being pregnant. This one’s more so about postpartum.
What’s your own battle with mental health?
I have really, really bad anxiety. When people hear someone say that, they think it’s a matter of, “Oh, just calm down.” It’s really not that simple. I’ve been in traffic before and felt like I had to pull over because I wouldn’t have been able to make it home if I didn’t. It’s not as simple as, “Okay, I need to breathe.” People don’t understand that it completely takes over you. Consumes you. When I first decided to go to a therapist, there were so many people against me doing it.
That’s crazy, you’d think they’d be supportive.
I don’t know what type of family you have, but black families do not believe in talking to therapists. They’re telling me “just pray” or “calm down.” It was a lot. That’s why I decided to write the book because I figure so many people are going through the same thing. We all can fight the battle together.
Did you write everyday?
Yeah. In the beginning, I started writing it all over the place because I wanted to talk about so many different things. Andrea (her publicist) got me with a publisher, he helped me get down the couple things I wanted to talk about for sure. Write those things, then they actually put the book together. I have information in it from the first therapist I worked with, the first psychiatrist I worked with. Tip has a portion in there. It’s a lot of information from different people, not just my views and my opinions.
How’s motherhood treating you?
It’s a learning experience, but I enjoy it. He’s seven months, he’s doing something new everyday. He smiles when I’m rapping.
What are some goals for yourself as an artist?
To always grow bigger and do more. If only 10 people know who Tokyo is, by the end of the week I want to triple that. I want to do things at a bigger scale.