Insight News

Feb 10th

Hip-hop star, Toki Wright joins the Insight News/Aesthetically Speaking family

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toki-headshotToki Wright has rocked stages across the globe, performing to thousands nightly, but that's just one side the multifaceted newest member of the Insight News/Aesthetically Speaking family.

The north Minneapolis born and raised emcee who is the vice president of Soul Tools Entertainment and a member of the Rhymesayers collective, has had highly-charted videos on MTV, achieved more than a million hits on YouTube and played for sold out audiences throughout the United States, Asia, Canada, Africa, Europe and South America. If that weren't enough, Wright, a graduate of Patrick Henry High School and the University of Minnesota, is the department head at McNally Smith College of Music's hip-hop studies program – the nation's first such fully accredited program. McNally began the program in 2008 and Wright has been the department head since its inception. On top of everything else, Wright was recently chosen by the U.S. State Department as an arts ambassador, performing in Sierra Leone, West Africa.

To say Wright is a rare quality is quite the understatement.

toki-stage"A lot of my writing comes from understanding the works of James Baldwin, Richard Wright and people like that," said Wright, explaining his style of hip-hop. "My taste musically is for lyrical creativity, while being able to enjoy the music. A lot of people call what I do conscious rap. I take my cues from Nas, Common, Busta Rhymes, Scarface and Slick Rick."

A truly unique artist, Wright has been writing songs since he was 11-years-old and performing since he was 15. Part of what makes Wright a unique figure may have to do with his Buddhist upbringing – a rarity in the African-American community and even more rare in the ultra macho and oftentimes combative hip-hop culture.

As a writer with Insight News' Aesthetically Speaking, Wright will provide a window into the area's music scene that before may have been ignored by traditional media.

"Readers can expect me to connect the dots between creative people who are on the cutting edge of idea and art," said Wright. "I'll be showcasing artists in and from the Twin Cities that have had a major impact but maybe haven't been properly showcased. I want to make sure the voiceless are being heard."

Wright's forthcoming release, "Pangaea" – a collaboration with producer Big Cats – is expected sometime later this year and is a fully sample-free project that Wright describes as a past meets present meets future sound.

The dynamic writer, emcee and performer will be headlining and showcasing new material on April 18 at the Triple Rock Social Club, 629 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis. Tickets for the $10 show are available online at Also on the bill are K. Raydio and Shiro Dame – two artists Wright said he's proud to showcase.

"These are breakout groups from the area. I'm really trying to get people to look outside the normal box of what people around here hear," said Wright. "There are artists out there who can sell out 1,000 people venues and most of my peers don't know who they are."

When Wright isn't in the studio, on stage, at McNally or being a United States arts ambassador, he's on air every Saturday night from 9 p.m. – 11 p.m. with Soul Tools Radio on KFAI (90.3 FM, along with fellow Soul Tools artist, DJ Willie Shu.

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