If lewdness is the new drug, Tokischa is our dealer. She asks her faithful followers, girls who stick out their tongues in the concerts to bump piercings: “Do you feel like bitches?” They know it, being a bitch is trendy, as she sings in Estilazo; it’s all sexual, loving pleasure with a Latin vibe. It’s singadera time. Toki was born on a Caribbean island, right around the time Juan Luis Guerra was dabbling in Christian music. Maybe to act as a counterweight.
“Since I was a child, I was always very free. When I lived with my dad I didn’t like to wear bras. Why did I have to wear bras, if they bothered me? I didn’t feel comfortable [wearing them], I’m allergic, I felt restrained, and I wanted to feel good. People used to tell me: ‘put on a bra,’ and I didn’t want to, so I didn’t wear it and got punished. I used to go out into the street and men yelled things at me, but I just walked past them.” Let’s say that Toki has been a free spirit for as long as she can remember. Raised in a very violent environment, in a broken family, always on the go, with an absent mother and an imprisoned father, with no fixed residence, fantasy was the window through which she could escape. Besides, she is a Pisces, and Pisces “live in another world.”
Dressed as a government official — as she has done since she started playing at being the leader of the free world — Tokischa visited Spain in June, as part of her global tour, Popola Presidente, or Pussy President.
Question. What would be the first thing you would do if you were president?
A. I would ban cigarettes. I can’t even smell them, I can’t stand them.
Q. But Tokischa, you start by forbidding something?
A. To forbid is human [laughs]. I would decree equality for everyone. Free food. Free water. And that everyone has a plot to watch their own food grow and take care of their animals.
Here’s your president, the young ideologist of the new post #MeToo sexual politics, a vehicle to reconnect with our voluptuousness in these tough times of sexual harassment and abuse, a champion of tropical feminism and defender of sex workers. It seems unbelievable that sex is still shocking in the 21st century, but she has managed to disrupt the scene.
“I recently realized something. Society, the system, the moralists, they turned my music into a social criticism. I didn’t start making music as a conscious rapper, no. I told my experiences without the intention of creating controversy. But the system, by trying to classify it as rebellious music, gave it the force of social criticism. For example, my song Desacato escolar; when it came out, my country’s educational system banned it and I received a subpoena. That made everyone become more interested in the song, and my music eventually became that.”
In truth, she says, not letting herself be oppressed turned her music into politics. “The system wants to keep us under control, but its cleanliness is a front; it covers up what happens in the neighborhood, it ignores the rights that women don’t have, that the LGBTQ community doesn’t have… When they see this twerp come out and say all this, there’s going to be a commotion. And thousands will start to say: ‘I am a woman and I do whatever I want.’”
Some are shocked by this smart Caribbean woman who is all provocation, who is rebellious from birth and does whatever her body asks of her. But what does she eat, what is her diet? I’m not sure I get her. Is she bisexual, or a straight girl who kisses her female friends? Mom, Tokischa is sex. God doesn’t love you, Toki. God is more into bachata. But my daughter does.
A racialized woman who exercises her sexuality freely in a very puritanical, very racist world, Tokischa’s vindication goes beyond gender and race; it is also about class. It’s made by a survivor who was asked to make “clean” music but refused. Now she creates “divine dirt.” Thanks to the indecent rhythm of dembow, to those filthy lyrics, the Dominican has not had to resort to sugar daddies for a while, one of her old jobs. This is the story of someone who one day rebelled: “For me, being a bitch goes beyond twerking, beyond sex. A woman is a bitch when she has guts, when she goes out to work, to look for her place, when she pulls up her pants to get a good grade, a self-confident woman — that’s a bitch.”
Q. We are experiencing a Latin boom, and today we are paying attention to the Afro, the brown, even if, socially, the gap remains intact. What is your take on this phenomenon?
A. The other day I was reading about my ancestors, which is something that interests me a lot, and I realized that things haven’t changed that much. There’s still racism, there’s still slavery, perhaps no longer literally with the whip, but there’s slavery through work, through the lack of education (our ancestors did not have the right to it). It’s a cycle that repeats itself. However, we try to continue to open doors. Nowadays, the big brands have a lot of diversity and that’s something that has been fought over. It’s “inclusion,” quote unquote, but at least there are other bodies, other colors, hairs and tattoos that represent us.
Q. Madonna — your new friend — was criticized recently because she claimed on social media that she had been the first to bring sex into pop, ignoring so many artists, including many Afro-descendants, who long before her played with their sexuality and provoked with their bodies and dissidence. Does your moaning, that voice, that tongue, that style, have Madonna-type influences, or what is it?
A. I feel like it’s something intimate, personal. As a child I didn’t know who Madonna was. It’s not that she’s old, but in my childhood there wasn’t so much access to the internet. And I was always a very provocative girl, very sexual, I loved being like that, kissing my girl friends, kissing boys, taking risky pictures of myself. Even when I started to connect with people in the art world in Santo Domingo I did erotic photography, I always had very beautiful looks, just like I do now.
Q. To clear things up: what is your relationship with the queer community? Some accuse you of not really being a part of the community and just selling an image that they like so that they consume you.
A. My connection with the community comes from that oppression, that rebellion and that freedom; there are people who don’t fit in with the family, at school, with friends. The community is a group of people that, due to their nature, don’t fit anywhere. Then we get together and fill each other with love.
Q. How do you identify yourself?
A. I would say that I am bisexual, I like men and women, and I feel very open about that. I am a person, human, but Caribbean, obviously. I understand that we are all linked, everyone has a little bit of white, of Black, but I understand that if I was born on a Caribbean island I am a Caribbean.
Q. What defines Caribbeanness?
A. It’s saoko style, flavor, nature, beach, river, mountain, it’s the Taino, delicious food, rebellion. In my past there were the Tainos and the Caribs, who were the worst, the supposedly bad ones; the cannibals. I feel like a bit of a cannibal.
Q. You’ve had the ovaries to say that you started producing your music thanks to OnlyFans and that you still use it; you say that even though we are surrounded by a feminism that opposes prostitution. You haven’t been shy talking about sex work…
A. We are all prostitutes of the system. I preferred selling sex over selling my time to an office. If I had to do it again, I would, no question. I had to spend all day in an office taking calls, being insulted by FedEx customers who didn’t receive their packages. I had no money or time, I had no way to study, so I preferred prostitution, hands down. I tried selling marijuana, but it didn’t work.
Q. You have a style that’s all your own. What is your deepest, most secret idea of fashion?
A. Essence. Fashion is essence. I am very selective with what I wear. Right now I have my presidential aesthetic: I wear blazers, business attire, elegant clothes. But while the aesthetic changes, the essence never does.
Q. At what point would you say you are right now, musically speaking?
A. At a moment of concert energy, becoming acquainted with the euphoria of the show, the connection with the fans, and I feel that something very special is brewing. I am in my performer moment, developing as a performer. I am being reborn.
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