The Break Presents: Token
When Token stepped up to the mic to freestyle on Sway in the Morning last year, he commanded Lil Wayne and Drake's "Believe Me" instrumental with so much emotion and excellence that his six-minute rhyme moved cohost Tracy G. to tears. The viral clip became one of the year's best freestyles, if not one of the best performances ever on Sway's legendary show.
The then-17-year-old teenager from Salem, Mass. displayed a talent that was palpable, but with his 2016 debut project Eraser Shavings, he proved that he could craft songs, too. It was just another step in sharing his talent and story with the world.
"The first rap I ever wrote was about me feeling like I can’t relate to anyone and me being different," he tells XXL. "That was like the majority of the first raps I was making. So Token can mean the only one, but it can also mean a gift and appreciation. It’s not South Park [Laughs]"
Token has quietly been having a strong 2017, with videos like "Exception," "Doozy," "Patty Cake," and his latest hit "Little Boy" each garnering more than one million YouTube views. Now, Token's focus is taking things to the next level.
"I’m working on a project, just next level music, videos, everything," he says. "I’m trying to hit more places on tour, just meet all my fans everywhere and [drop] global songs—songs that are going to hit all demographics, [music] that isn’t for just one group of people."
Cash in on Token's rising stock here on The Break.
Hometown: Salem, Mass.
I grew up listening to: "The first thing I grew up listening to is 2Pac, he’s my number one. Ludacris and Eminem were my favorites [too]. I started writing music when I was 6—it wasn’t even music at that point it was just poetry then it found its form in rap when I was 10. I started recording music when I was 10. Since I was 6, I turned to [rap]; it made me feel better when I would write shit that was going on in my life.
"I always knew it would be something that I would do no matter what but the second I thought it was going to be my career is when I got the first comment on a release on YouTube. I just thought, 'Someone could like what I love to do? That’s what I’m doing for the rest of my life.' It was not even one moment of hesitation, it was decided.
"I learned a lot about myself through music, especially when things change. I went from no one giving a shit about me and laughing at me to people being excited by it."
My style’s been compared to: "It depends—I have songs that focus on the flow, songs that focus on energy; it’s a lot of stuff. I just do what my eyes tell me to do and I really let the beat tell me where to go."
Most people don’t know: "I don’t fuck with a lot of the music that people think I fuck with. I’m obsessed with Amy Winehouse, she’s the love of my life. Also, it’s a pet peeve of mine when people see the outcome of things and say they’re proud of me. There’s been a lot of local people recently that would say, ‘Oh, you seem more famous now, I’m proud of you for that’ or ‘I can tell you’re getting money, I’m proud of you for that.’ I don’t want anybody to be proud of the outcome. I want people to be proud of the process, because when they're proud of the outcome, they make it sound like it's something so foreign. My whole thing is, come with me. You can do this shit too. I want people to focus more on the process than the outcome."
My standout moment to date: "This is cliché, but definitely going on Sway. That was the first time getting in front of someone who’s way up there. I felt like I had to impress them. I practiced a lot on that moment and I’m proud of the outcome. To have Sway’s support is so big to me because I grew up watching his videos."
My goal in hip-hop is: "I don’t look at goals for myself; I think I’m honestly too young to know. My goal is the next small step and if I keep following that it will take me to the place I need to be. I also want to inspire kids my age and younger, the kids that feel like you just have to go on this cycle and do what everyone else tells you you’re supposed to do and they never find originality because the world doesn’t allow them too. I just want to inspire people to find what they love to do and say fuck it all. That’s the message, especially for kids my way."
I’m going to be the next: "It sounds crazy, I want to be looked at like Kanye is looked at, as far as creative. I feel like I barely even scratched the surface creatively. I don’t want to be looked at as one thing; I want people to know what my next single is going to be. I love that."