Interview with Dominican Rapper Tokischa on Her Previous Controversies and Being “Perra”

The first time mainstream America sees Tokischa, she’s wearing semi-transparent, nude-toned latex, cosplaying as a vulva.

Soy La Santa Popola” (“I’m Saint Vagina”), she tells one unsuspecting Billboard Latin Music Awards red-carpet correspondent because the digicam scans her outfit, from the headgear — a cross between a Conehead and a nun’s behavior — to the crucifix resting at her stomach, to the chalice and disembodied hand of God drawn onto latex dangling between her legs.

¡Bien, eso me gusta!” (“Good, I like it!”) responds the poor soul, blissfully oblivious to the which means of the lewd time period Tokischa has simply spoken right into a microphone on worldwide tv.

Tokischa’s lyrics and vocabulary are, little doubt, an rising supply of direct visitors to The Dominican artist raps, to cite a crude Latin-American idiom, “a calzón quitado” (direct translation: “with underwear removed”). It’s a phrase meant to precise uncooked, uncensored honesty, however Tokischa offers the expression new which means with unvarnished lyrical tales of orgies, medicine, prostitution, and normal desacato (rebel).

Courting controversy by the suggestive use of latex and non secular imagery at awards exhibits is nothing new, in fact. It could be the oldest trick within the fashionable playbook: Madonna employed it when she humped the stage in a virginal white wedding ceremony costume on the 1984 Video Music Awards, and Miley Cyrus stoked the weeks-long ire of Fox News when she twerked on Robin Thicke in nude PVC shorts almost three a long time later.

Tokischa is angering authorities officers and eliciting warnings about corrupting youth.

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Tokischa has clearly studied this playbook and annotated its margins. During her debut efficiency at Premios Billboard later that evening — a collaboration with Rosalía — she replicated the Madonna-and-Britney blueprint by kissing the Spanish singer onstage on the finish of the track. (Unlike Britney, Madonna, and Rosalía, Tokischa is proudly out as bisexual.)

Speaking to New Times by way of Zoom from the northern coastal resort city of Cabarete — situated on the northern coast of the island and a far cry from her humble beginnings in Los Frailes, a neighborhood in East Santo Domingo — Tokischa stresses that she has been an iconoclast since childhood. Asked about early influences, she responds with the identify of one other musical provocateur with a controversial previous: Mexican singer-songwriter Gloria Trevi. She mentions reggaeton, too, however she’s most animated when she remembers discovering dembow and sneaking out to take heed to it at round age 11 or 12. She says the style, which is thought for its explicitness and has been sanctioned by the Dominican authorities, was verboten throughout her upbringing.

“With the curse words and the expression — I loved it,” she says. “When I was alone at home, I’d play it as loud as possible.”

click on to enlarge Government warnings meant to steer kids away from Tokischa's music have had the opposite effect. - PHOTO BY RAYMI PAULUS

Government warnings meant to steer youngsters away from Tokischa’s music have had the alternative impact.

Photo by Raymi Paulus

Now 26, Tokischa is the one who’s angering authorities officers and eliciting warnings about corrupting youth. Last summer season, she was fined for taking lingerie images in entrance of a mural of her namesake, the Virgin of Altagracia, within the Dominican Republic’s La Vega province. (Tokischa’s center identify is Altagracia.) The caption: “Sluts pray, too.” She issued a public apology, however the contentious publish stays on her Twitter account.

Her newest track, “Estilazo” — a traditional home collaboration with Marshmello primed for Pride brunch on the Palace on Ocean Drive — doubles as a mission assertion for her debaucherous artistry and a celebration of, as she sings on the observe, “divine filth.”

Being a bad bitch is fashionable,” she sings. “If you upload your ass to Twitter/You’ll get thousands of likes/Money for drugs/To buy happiness/Orgies at home/Let’s celebrate.”

Institutions’ makes an attempt to ban her have had the alternative impact. In current months, she has develop into the newest “it girl” pushed by the ever-surging Latin music business. In addition to the aforementioned, tepidly acquired “Linda,” Tokischa collaborated with Rosalía on “La Combi Versace,” the penultimate observe on the Spanish singer’s critically acclaimed third album, Motomami. It was a notable vote of confidence, with the Weeknd being the one different artist featured on the file.

In dialog, Tokischa possesses a mischievous, childlike playfulness lower by sharp wit. It’s clear she has discovered tips on how to appeal her manner out of uncomfortable conditions in her two-and-a-half a long time on the planet.

After her mother left for New York searching for work when Tokischa was a toddler, she bounced forwards and backwards between kin’ properties. Throughout her adolescence, she cultivated her creative inclinations by theater, dance, and writing. After highschool, she turned to the profitable sugar-daddy and prostitution business on the island. She’s candid about this time in interviews, recalling arduous drug use and showering after intercourse in makes an attempt to clean off the odor of undesirable companions. For a time, she says, her cash went to medicine. But after she met producer and eventual supervisor Raymi Paulus, she took the cash she’d saved from intercourse work and invested it in her music.

“Since I began to make music,” she tells New Times, “The first thing I said was that I would be honest, that I would say what I was living through because I wasn’t going to invent a movie.”

Plenty of artists lean towards fantasy somewhat than biography. Why could not that work for Tokischa? Because her previous, she counters, “was what I could speak about with pride. I was empowered.”

Her unapologetic strategy has resulted in a slew of labels projected upon her: queer, bisexual, sex-positive, intercourse employee, putona. One explicit label is the topic of heated arguments on YouTube remark sections: Is Tokischa a feminist?

click on to enlarge Tokischa's unrepentant celebration of queer sex and female desire is lauded by some, while her self-objectification is condemned by others. - PHOTO BY RAYMI PAULUS

Tokischa’s unrepentant celebration of queer intercourse and feminine need is lauded by some, whereas her self-objectification is condemned by others.

Photo by Raymi Paulus

At a time when the rights of birthing persons are backsliding within the U.S., at the same time as they progress in a lot of Latin America, Tokischa’s unrepentant celebration of queer intercourse and feminine need is lauded by some, whereas her self-objectification is condemned by others. A string of current controversies has not helped her case.

Earlier this yr, she angered folks on each side of the controversy when she voiced assist for fellow Dominican dembow artist Rochy RD, who’s accused of sexually assaulting a minor who was a purported trafficking sufferer. That got here just some months after Tokischa issued a halfhearted apology for her position in “Perra,” a collaboration with J Balvin that compares sexy ladies to canine in warmth, and an accompanying video through which Balvin, a white Colombian man, walks two Black ladies on leashes. “I’m truly sorry that people felt offended,” Tokischa advised Rolling Stone on the time. “But at the same time, art is expression.”

“Being a perra is an expression, too, of feeling powerful, of feeling bacana.”

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Asked by New Times if she better understands why people were upset, the rapper with the reputation for raw honesty becomes uncharacteristically cagey.

“I just feel that, la que no es perra no esta de moda (a person who isn’t bad bitch isn’t fashionable),” she laughs, quoting her track with Marshmello earlier than summarizing the intent of the track. “Being a perra is an expression, too — of feeling powerful, of feeling bacana (cool or great).” Reminded that the backlash largely stemmed from the racial undertones of the video, not the lyrics to the song itself, she retreats to another halfhearted mea culpa: “There was no intention to hurt anyone or anything. Everyone made it with lots of love because it was something super-creative, super-different, super-fun. Those who aren’t perras felt that way.”

Now stepping onto the worldwide stage, Tokischa is adapting to a wider viewers (and, inevitably, elevated scrutiny). She’s additionally dealing with an more and more packed journey schedule. “Es una locura (it’s crazy),” she says of the tempo, including that she loves her time onstage however prefers to remain dwelling in DR. She give up medicine virtually three years in the past, although she started ingesting once more in December.

“I got to a point where I felt I was moving away from my desacatá (rebellious) self,” she says, adding that she’s been doing some devotional writing lately. “I was so sober and so spiritual, and so on that vibe, that I felt removed from el teteo (partying). I have to find that balance because I have my career, which depends on my rebellion, on my story; but I also have my spirituality, which depends on me. It’s a duality I have, and I’m managing it well. I think I have a good balance. If I didn’t have that balance, I’d be too rebellious,” she says with fun.

One wonders whether or not the exploitative nature of the music business could be overwhelming — an excessive amount of, too quickly — for a girl in her mid-twenties who only a handful of years in the past lived in a continuing state of fight-or-flight.

Tokischa displays on how her previous could have ready her for this second: “I lived an existence that wasn’t pleasant. But possessing the strength to resist and to keep struggling for what I wanted, despite the fact that what I was doing was super uncomfortable. I feel that this moment I’m living through right now, beyond being prepared for it, I feel it is a prize for me. It is a moment of realization of what I dreamed of, what I worked for, why I did everything I did.”

She has actually mastered the artwork of persuasion, and her conviction is convincing.

Tokischa. 9 p.m. Saturday, June 4, at Oasis Wynwood, 2335 N. Miami Ave., Miami; Tickets value $35 to $125 by way of

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