Many know TOKiMONSTA for her sick, psychedelic, hip hop-inspired productions, but what very little people realize is that she’s been battling Moyamoya — a fatal brain disease that made her fight for everything she has worked for. While there’s no known cure, patients can have surgery to reroute blood flow via bypasses.
Not only has Jennifer Lee had to overcome two brain surgeries since 2015, relearn how to walk, comprehend speech, and more, but she’s also had to completely reteach herself how to consume and make music again. At her worst point she couldn’t even recognize the music — a true nightmare for anyone, but especially a producer.
“All music just sounded like noise,” TOKiMONSTA recalls her pretty intense journey. “I remember being like, ‘Ooh, this is weird! This is metallic, harsh nonsense to me.’”
Although her forthcoming third album, Lune Rouge, doesn’t exactly discuss her struggles head on, it’s made entirely of songs TOKiMONSTA made after her recovery. Listening to how intricately and uniquely produced her recent single “Don’t Call Me” sounds, it’s crazy to think how much she must have went through to get to that level again.
Our favourite remix of hers before the brain surgery:
TOKiMONSTA finally tells the story in her own words, and though her entire account is scary as hell, this paragraph in particular is difficult to digest:
The whole month of February , I tried to acclimate myself to my life again. The most difficult thing was trying to work on music. I opened Ableton and I couldn’t understand what I was doing, even though at that point my speech was at 90 percent. I tried to make music and it was just garbage. The part of my brain that knew how to put sounds together was broken. I didn’t understand why it didn’t make sense anymore. When you make music, so much of it is intuitive and natural. I could always put sounds together, play a little ditty on the piano. I never had to think about doing it. And then I’m there in front of my computer going, “I don’t understand if this is a good sound or a bad sound. I don’t know if I’m playing a melody.” I didn’t want to pity myself, but it was a heart-wrenching pain.
She also opens up about the new album Lune Rouge, out October 6:
After facing that experience, I thought, “You know what? This album isn’t going to be made to satisfy the needs of an industry or the needs of a trend. I’m just going to make songs that make me happy, and I really hope they make other people happy, too.” That’s not to say that this is a happy album, but the whole process of creating it was very cathartic for me. It’s my most personal piece of work. Because I’m making beats, it might not be as obvious, but each of these beats—all these songs I put together—tell a story.
Listen to Jennifer Lee’s hit song featuring Yuna here: