Multi-faceted artist 1$T has been behind the boards of some of your favorite songs from the last decade. He’s worked with Post Malone, Lil Uzi Vert, Mac Miller, and many more. The Atlanta-based artist made a bigger name for himself with the release of his First Time for Everything project in 2016. Since then, 1$t has been traveling the world and collaborating with some of the best artists on every continent.
Continuing his journey of musical self-discovery and self-expression, 1$T is back with his latest, Tokyo Project. The album is produced and written by 1$T and features 8 songs representing his journey to Tokyo and the inspirations he took away from it. There will also be 8 videos to accompany every song on the project. We sat down with 1$T before the holidays to learn more about the project, his takeaways from traveling, his thoughts on branding as an artist, and more. Read the full interview below:
Ones To Watch: What inspired you to get out there and experience Tokyo?
1$T: Tokyo is very forward-thinking. Whether it was the lights, the people, or the technology, it fits everything I was trying to do. When I was out there, I made eight songs, eight videos, and really just made a movie out of it. For all of my people in Atlanta that never really get to travel, they got to see it through my eyes.
How long were you out there?
A month altogether split up between two or three trips.
What was your biggest takeaway from the experience?
One of the biggest things I took away from creating in Japan was respect. They show a lot of respect for people in a great way. They made me want to show respect to everybody. Not to say that I wasn’t a respectful person before, but they just showed me new levels of it. And that’s with everything - music, relationships, and in day to day reactions with people.
Who were some of the artists you worked with there?
I worked with some of the young and new artists like Kohh, Petz, and KZM. I also worked with one of the biggest rappers out there, AK 69. For every new place I go, I like working with the newest artists that are just getting started as well the person that’s on top. I also worked with another artist named Tomo out there, too. They were all so supportive of what I was doing with the music. They were helping with everything, definitely salute to them.
Is there a difference in how people make music with vs there?
Music is a universal language but our process of making music here is different. In the states, you can have a party inside the studio or in the lobby outside the studio, and you can regulate what’s going on through the power of the music. But in Japan, it’s more like a job. They pull up like a 9-5 to make music. It’s more formal in comparison to us, we just do it and freestyle.
How has the transition been from being seen primarily as a producer to an artist?
I actually hate to have these conversations because people try to put you in a box. I feel like every person that decides to be an artist or decides to make beats has always experimented in doing both. To every beat I’ve ever made, I freestyled on it or made a song. Every single one. Whether it became a hit or not, every single beat I’ve made has a song behind it on my phone or in my magic black book. I’m literally giving my art out to the people. If I have to be a brand new artist to everybody, that’s cool because I am a new artist. The Tokyo Project is the beginning of something special.
What is something new that your fans will learn about you on this project?
I’ve never displayed emotions of love. So, on this project, I talk a lot about how to handle relationships, romantic or otherwise. There’s a song called “Your Way.” That song is about recognizing that sometimes you have to split from people, and it doesn’t have to be a big negative thing. Sometimes you just have to drop the top and let it shine.
On this project, what is the song that you are most excited for people to hear?
There are two songs. My favorite song on the project is called “Velvet” because it’s literally me. I’m so chill and cool. I’m on the smooth side and like to keep shit real player and cool so it fits me. Soon as you hear it, the chords come in really smooth and that’s me. But I feel like the song that everybody will like is “Pass it to Myself.” In the song “Pass it to Myself”, I feel like I’m trying to help new artists learn when to pass it to yourself and when not to. Like, there comes a point in your life where you have to step up and become Kobe or Jordan or Lebron. And if you don’t, that shit will pass you. You have to know what times to turn into that dog and go crazy. So “Pass it to Myself” and “Velvet” are my two favorites.
What’s the biggest advice you would give to an aspiring artist that’s just setting out on their artistic journey?
When you find out what you love and what your lane is, pick that lane and go down it. Put a team together and pick people that have similar interests to you. Three or four people are all you really need. They don’t have to be rich or have clout, they just have to believe in you. Put together a team of people that have the same goal as you and just go.
Visually, how did all of the videos come together for the project?
I want all of the music videos that I shoot to have a travel element to them. I just left Brazil and did the same thing there that I did in Tokyo because I want to shine the light on music everywhere, especially rap. Rap runs the fucking world. Whether people like it or not, they don’t have to admit it - one song, line, verse, or hook can change somebody’s life.
How much does traveling inspire you as an artist?
As an artist, traveling is everything. You need to find that place where you’re out of your normal day to day shit, and you just get to relax or create. You need to find that “me time” place. I’m like a nomad. As long as there’s the internet, a place to get the message out there, I’m good and I’ll go anywhere.
What are some places that you want to go to but haven’t yet?
The next place is Africa, East, and West. I’m West African myself. I’m Liberian, so I can’t wait to get to West Africa. My next trips are to Kenya and Ghana. I just made a whole project with an artist named Victoria Kimani and she lives in Kenya. It’s a duet-type project which will be out after the Tokyo project. We’re on some Anthony Bourdain shit, for real.
Stream the Tokyo Project below.