TOKiMONSTA Opens Up About the Brain Surgery That Could Have Cost Her Career

Rachel Ann Cauilan
Sep 13,2017
TOKiMONSTA (Kore Asian Media file)TOKiMONSTA (Kore Asian Media file)

For any musician, the worst fear is in losing one’s ability to comprehend and understand music. As it turns out, that fear nearly became reality for electronic music producer and DJ Jennifer Lee, a.k.a. TOKiMONSTA.

Lee, well-known for her psychedelic hip-hop beats, shared with Pitchfork her story about being diagnosed with a brain disease called Moyamoya, in which blocked arteries can lead to potentially fatal hemorrhaging, toward the end of 2015. After surviving two brain surgeries, Lee struggled with not only how to comprehend language and walking and talking again, but also the potential loss of understanding and hearing music altogether.

“The part of my brain that knew how to put sounds together was broken,” Lee told Pitchfork. During her treatment and recovery, Lee kept the news to only her close friends and family. “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.’”

Her forthcoming third album “Lune Rouge” is inspired by songs written after her recovery, and features guest vocals from Joey Purp, MNDR and Yuna.

She revealed: “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.”

Watch TOKiMONSTA’s newest single “Don’t Call Me,” featuring Yuna, off her upcoming album below:    


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