Musicians, poets, visual artists, designers ... what makes them interesting isn't just the music they make, the art they create, or the style they have. What really makes them interesting is that they are our mirror. They reflect back to us, all the things that make us human. Our moment to moment humanity. Whether that be our moments of triumph, our moments of feeling confident - yet also, and sometimes most importantly - they reflect back to us our worries, our insecurities, our difficult moments. They give us the human experience through art, and we appreciate their sacrifice.
KingstonToLA recently caught up with Tosh Alexander, an artist that exemplifies these principles; An artist who began her musically journey stateside, working with people such as: Left side, Baby G, Jam 2, Kent Jones, Busta Rhymes, Nikki Minaj, Pharell, Scott Storch; and is now working with people from the island such as Andre Gray, producer Marlin Easy, The Chemist, The Wizard, just to name a few. This journey from Jamaica to the states back to Jamaica interested us, and we soon realized, is the foundation for Tosh's discovery of self.
KNG2LA: How long have you been in the business?
Tosh: I've been professionally pursuing music since the age of 14. So, it's been over 12 or 13 years since I have been pursuing music professionally, but I've been singing my whole life.
KNG2LA: Tell us about your evolution. What genres have you explored and what kind of music are you focusing on?
Tosh: When I started doing music at 14, it was in America and I was in a pop group; so we always focused on things that were centered on the R&B genre. At around 18 and 19, I was coming to Jamaica frequently, so I began to hear riddims which lead me to begin doing the SingJay thing, but because I didn't live in Jamaica, I would go back to America and get back into singing pop music; so for most of my career, the majority of the songs I was doing were R&B-pop with a little dancehall flair. Yet, the motive was always to be a Jamaican singer in America. I wasn't trying to be just dancehall.
KNG2LA: What has your journey been like since leaving Jamaica?
Tosh: What people don't always know, is that I lived in America for a long time. I was constantly doing songs that were R&B affiliated - pop vibes while sprinkling in a little dancehall. When I say little, I mean as little as possible. This was because I hated that many people in Jamaica associate dancehall influence as a sign that you are a dancehall artist. Also, there are things that one must do as an artist to be considered dancehall, these things I was not willing to do. So, for a long time, I was concentrated on pop (music). Pop-alternative, with a flare, acoustic sounds. Then, when I moved to Jamaica last year, I started experimenting with dancehall; putting more of it into my music. I have always had a fear of not being "authentic" enough for dancehall; that is how I have felt, back in the day. Now I find that since the music has changed, has become more open, I have become more comfortable being myself (within the genre). So, when I came back home and got back into the culture, going to the parties, reconnecting with people I worked with in the past, I found that when I would get a beat, the vibe that would come to me was more dancehall. Still pop you know, but dancehall at its core. What I have been doing lately, is just allowing myself to be free. Sometimes I am writing and it's R&B, sometimes I am writing and it is pop, other times its dancehall; whichever way it comes out, that's the way it is, I have learned to step outside the box, not put myself in one box. When I put myself in a box (while in America) it stopped me from applying my Jamaican flavor in my songs. That is what makes me unique! Right now I am focusing on making music with a groove and a vibe.
KNG2LA: What keeps you inspired creatively?
Tosh: (Laughs) Life. Life is eventful, whether it is my life or someone else's life. I tend to draw from those experiences. I am a very emotional and creative person, so it is not hard to find or be inspired. I use what I am going through; it can be painful, it can bring happiness, and I find a way to channel it into my music. I can also draw from other people's experiences, what they are going through, and place myself in their position; this is how I create my music. What keeps me inspired overall is my will to win. This means that I am driven to get my music out for all the masses to hear who Tosh Alexander is.
KNG2LA: What are some of the challenges you have had to overcome in your career?
Tosh: I think I am still overcoming. There have been so many challenges - it could simply be not being enough. When you come into this music industry, no one tells you that you can't take it personally. It seems impossible when they do say it to you because it is yourself (that is out there), but you learn that over time. So, for a long time it was hard to hear people pick me apart, my craft apart. You know, I felt like it didn't look a certain way, or that I was not enough, sometimes I felt like I did not look enough like this person or that person; I didn't believe my voice was big enough; or sometimes when you are attractive your talent is overlooked and the people in power tend to want to use you in other ways. They don't want to get to know how you are and love you for that and your talent. As a woman in the industry, it is your looks first, then everything else after - and because a lot of people have made it so these guys feel they can do whatever they want with you - you almost feel as though this is how everyone works - this is a constant challenge and I don't know if that will ever change. So, I had to learn to develop thick skin. Another challenge is trying to find your sound. Music is something that, you never really arrive, you are always finding your way through it. You are always trying to find a new sound, your sound. For a long time maybe some self-doubt crept in because I was trying to do what was trending, not digging deep into my soul and asking what do I like to do, what makes me, me. Other challenges: the feeling that you should be in a certain place now, with all your hard work, that I should be further along. People see when others "blow up" - they don't see all the hard work that goes into that success story. I've lost relationships, I have lost friends, and it is mainly my doing because I have given myself to music.
KNG2LA: Who do you want your music to connect with?
Tosh: I want my music to connect with anyone who feels connected to it. You know music is subjective, not everyone is going to like it; but whoever this music is meant for, I hope that it reaches them. My music consists of emotional stuff - whether it is heartbreak or being in love - or it consists of day to day life, the struggles of life, it also consists of having a good time; the party of life. No age group, no color, there is no boundaries to who it can reach or who it is for.
KNG2LA: Tell us about your fashion sense, and how it has developed through your career.
Tosh: I don't mean to sound cocky, but I have always been a little trendy person. Trendy in my own little way - not trendy in a way where everyone is wearing it. My mother is very much into fashion and she always used to dress me up. She has always had a great fashion sense and I have admired her confidence in her own style. So, I have always had my own style and being in music hasn't really changed that; as I get older and I grow as a person, certain styles change, but for the most part, my fashion sense has remained the same. Which is true to me, whatever makes me feel good.
KNG2LA: Is "Ready for Dem" you most recent tune and what is coming next in 2017.
Tosh: Yes, "Ready for Dem" is the first song I released in the beginning of the year and it is a song that happened like *buck ups* you know like a last minute song, yet the energy of it felt so good. The chorus, Ready for Dem, was so much of an anthem that it was an obvious choice to put it out first, and it was so much fun. The motive was to catch the 90s vibe through the riddim, through the look of the video, through the whole project and I think we did a very good job of that. I have a song that we just released called, "Nut Say Nuttin" featuring Agent Sasco aka Assassin. Shortly after this, I have another song coming out with Conscience and that's called, "The One." For 2017, I hope to be touring, overseas in Europe, sharing my music on the stage and getting the chance to engage with the audience.
KNG2LA: Where do you see yourself in 2018
Tosh: I see myself everywhere! I should be collecting a Grammy too. My music is supposed to be all over. I really feel like 2017 is going to be the year for me - the season of happiness where I get to really get my music out to the masses and everyone sees who Tosh Alexander really is, and the moment that starts there is no stopping. I have so much music to get out there. So, for 2018 I plan to be very seasoned and to be still coming out with hits; getting up there.
Tosh Alexander's honest and introspective interview makes us reflect on why we at KNG2LA are excited for her upcoming year. It feels a bit like a homecoming. A culmination of her journey, her art, and her true self.
* All Photos courtesy of Instagram