Tokischa: ‘I’m gonna be whatever I want to be’

Tokischa: ‘I’m gonna be whatever I want to be’ | Soho House

Dress, Leslie Amon SS 2023

What better way to celebrate the opening of Miami Pool House than with one of the music world’s brightest and most boundary-breaking artists

Wednesday 21 February 2023 By Salomé Gómez-Upegui

Since the release of her first single less than five years ago, 26-year-old Dominican rapper Tokischa has had a meteoric rise. Her catchy, unabashedly explicit lyrics have resonated with countless fans who religiously follow her online and attend her many sold-out shows (including one at Soho Beach House Miami just last Friday). She’s been featured in high-profile media outlets such as The New York Times, Rolling Stone magazine and Teen Vogue, and secured major collaborations with big-name musicians, including Colombian reggaeton singer J Balvin, Spanish pop phenom Rosalía, and none other than Madonna herself, who she’s passionately kissed in public on multiple occasions. 

Still, Tokischa says her newfound fame hasn’t come entirely as a surprise. Growing up, she was confident she would someday become a thriving artist. ‘I remember when I was a little girl, and they asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would say: “I’m gonna be an artist, and it’s gonna be amazing. I’m gonna be everything. I can be whatever I want – a singer, performer, dancer, actress, model, whatever.” I committed to that, and here I am,’ she says while meticulously laying her edges with a delicate brush. 

The new Soho House member is visiting the recently opened Miami Pool House today for our cover shoot, and she’s utterly committed to making sure every detail of her look comes out just right.

Tokischa: ‘I’m gonna be whatever I want to be’ | Soho House

Coat, Balenciaga Archive

Born Tokischa Altagracia Peralta in Los Frailes, a working-class neighbourhood of Santo Domingo, the artist credits her mother as the person responsible for holding her vision. ‘My mom has been my number-one supporter my entire life. She didn’t just give me life; she literally gave me a reason to live,’ she says. ‘She was always like, “I gave you this name. And it’s so different from everybody else’s because you’re very different and special. You don’t have to be like everyone else.” My mom, she’s my queen.’ 

Music has forever been an essential part of Tokischa’s life. She grew up listening to Latin boleros and saw the advent of dembow and reggaeton in her country during the early noughties. ‘And that was like a rebellion because parents didn’t want us to listen to it,’ she recalls. ‘They thought the lyrics were too naughty, but we still did it behind their backs.’ 

In 2016, while working on various photography projects in Santo Domingo, Tokischa met her current manager Raymi Paulus and officially began her music career. ‘He saw me, and saw that I was really creative with everything I was doing. He asked me to go to a studio and we’ve been making music ever since.’ 

Taking her mother’s advice to heart, Tokischa set out to become a unique artist, unafraid to stand out. But staying authentic and speaking her truth hasn’t always been a breeze. 

 

 

 

Tokischa: ‘I’m gonna be whatever I want to be’ | Soho House

Top and tie, Noir Kei Ninomiya SS 2023

Tokischa: ‘I’m gonna be whatever I want to be’ | Soho House

Tokischa’s work is often controversial due to her sexually explicit lyrics. She sings about pleasure, passion and debauchery, and expresses herself online in a way that fearlessly challenges the highly conservative values that usually prevail in the Caribbean and Latin America. This raunchy style has landed her in hot water more than a few times, especially within the Dominican Republic. Her song ‘Desacato Escolar’, which narrates her personal experience as a student who often had sex and smoked weed in school, got her in trouble with the national government in 2020. 

The following year she was fined and forced to issue a public apology after taking pictures in lingerie in front of a mural dedicated to the Virgin of Altagracia. But beyond stirring up trouble just for the fun of it, the artist had a clear intention behind it: ‘I didn’t do this to offend anyone, but to show that anyone can pray, no matter where they’re from or what they represent,’ she explained in Spanish during her public apology. 

In the past, Tokischa, who identifies as bisexual, has been open and adamant about standing with marginalised queer communities. For instance, her song ‘Estilazo’, a collaboration with American DJ Marshmello, which debuted in 2022, is an unashamed celebration of queer love and pleasure. ‘What makes me feel part of this community, more than my sexuality, is the fact that we all are so different, you know? And it’s like, we’re rejected, we’re the scum of society. But at the end of the day, love is love. And that’s what we all deserve. We all deserve love and respect. And freedom.’ 

Tokischa: ‘I’m gonna be whatever I want to be’ | Soho House

‘To receive the blessing of having millions of people connect with what you want to say is amazing’

The singer mines her personal experiences to write each and every one of her lyrics and has only recently begun to consider the possibility of singing something written by someone else. Reflecting on the subject, she’s refreshingly self-aware. ‘I think with writing music, there is something about your ego that makes you not want to sing lyrics that other people wrote. It’s like, I want to say the things that I say, I want to sing what I feel. But it’s an ego [impulse], because you can actually sing someone else’s music and feel your feelings too – that’s what makes music great. I still have that ego of not [wanting] to sing someone else’s compositions, but I’m gonna let go of that because I’m busy,’ she says laughing. 

Indeed, Tokischa’s schedule is busier than ever, with her major international tour Popola Presidente (which roughly translates as ‘vagina for president’) set to begin this March. ‘I’m working really hard on this tour, and it’s going to be really fun. I’m the president, everybody do as I say,’ she jokingly declares. 

That said, reflecting on her meteoric rise to success, Tokischa is quick to wax lyrical about some of the best moments she’s enjoyed so far. ‘Something I really loved was when Benito [referring to reggaeton sensation, Bad Bunny] brought me on stage in DR. It felt like a hug when I walked out in that crowd in my country, and everyone was screaming – a big, big hug that I’d never felt before. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. That moment was very special.’ 

‘After getting to know the people in Miami, how creative they are, I appreciate it so much’

Tokischa: ‘I’m gonna be whatever I want to be’ | Soho House

An avid patriot of her country, the Dominican rapper doesn’t see herself living anywhere else. Yet, she does admit to feeling at home in Miami, even though it wasn’t like that from the get-go. The first time she travelled to the US was last year, to attend the Billboard Music Awards with Rosalía. ‘And, to be honest, when I first came here, I thought, I like my country better. But after getting to know the people, how creative they are, how much they work and how easy it is to connect with every other part of the world, now I get it and appreciate it so much.’ 

Tokischa is big on connecting and collaborating with other creatives, so don’t be surprised if you find her mingling and lounging at Miami Pool House the next time she visits the 305. 

Speaking about the close friends and collaborators she’s had the opportunity to work with over the past few years, Tokischa can’t help but let out her inner fangirl. ‘Kissing Madonna was amazing,’ she says. ‘Having her as a friend, the icon, the Madonna, that’s amazing,’ she insists. ‘And I love Rosalía. We send memes and stickers to each other all the time. We always have these fun conversations, and we appreciate each other so much.’ 

Tokischa: ‘I’m gonna be whatever I want to be’ | Soho House