“I was sitting in my first period precalculus class. I checked my phone and thought I was seeing things. The video had gotten 7,000 views the night before and was up to 100K by the morning. I almost fell out of my chair.” Needless to say, precalc was a wrap for the day.
The video for “No Sucka MCs” earned 17-year-old wunderkind Token his first real burn on the rap blogs. Littered with timely, toothy, subliminal lyrics like “Until the XXL cover will set it up / I’m a junior now, I’ll f * a freshman up,” the track catapulted Token from provincial problem to national nuisance. Originally submitted to an online rap competition — one of several Token ended up winning — the song has amassed 1.6 million views on YouTube. It was this track that prompted another Massachusetts native who’d gotten his start rhyming, superstar Mark Wahlberg, to take to Twitter and proclaim Token his new favorite rapper.
“No Sucka MCs” also prompted iconic hip-hop tastemaker Sway Calloway to invite Token to spit on his influential Sway in the Morning SiriusXM show. “I rehearsed day and night for Sway,” Token reveals. “I wanted it flawless. And I actually prepared about 11 minutes of material, roughly 250 bars. Then, literally the day before, I got the news that I would have about half that time. I had to chop 11 minutes down to like six, basically overnight. It was nerve-wracking.” Sway’s cohost Tracy G actually broke down in tears with his verse — the video of which has garnered over a million views in a single 24-hour period, and totals more than 5 million views to date. The internet was set aflame by an apparent rap prodigy. A star was born.
Token’s trajectory is unorthodox bordering on inexplicable: “When I was young, doctors and analysts literally told me I can’t put words together like normal people do,” recounts the rapper, real name Ben Goldberg. “That my brain doesn’t have the ability to process language and understand long words. Of course, this is so ironic because this is what I do — how I choose to spend my time.” Token was put into special ed classes and diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and a learning disability.
These outward pivots belied Token’s true nature: “I always felt very different from everyone, always felt disconnected,” he admits. “I was such a thinker as far back as the first grade. I was embarrassed by a lot of what I was feeling and didn’t think people would take me seriously at that age. So I started a diary, like poetry conveying the way I was feeling. I would hide the pad under my bed. It became something I relied on — something I’d look forward to doing.”
Fast forward to the present, and it’s scores of fans who look forward to Token’s writing. The naysaying therapists have been replaced by reams of positive YouTube comments. But don’t get it twisted: Despite his pedigree in online cyphers, Token makes it clear he’s built for the flesh: “I’m not just this internet guy. I take time to make sure my live show is dope. I’ve grown a lot and I encourage people to come to my shows to take me in. You don’t know who or what Token is until you see me live.”
Get to know Token in his own words:
My sound in five words or less: Confident, passionate, and thoughtful.
Best part of making this video: The actress who played the main female role pulled me aside at the shoot and told me she cried when she heard the song because she related to the story so much. She told me how happy she was that someone is putting out this message because she hasn’t seen anyone do it before. Ever since then, I’ve stayed in touch with her and want to use her for future videos.
What inspires your art: My everyday life inspires each topic and my yearn to be the best inspires the technique I use.
Explain the concept of the song in one sentence: Achieving happiness doesn’t always come from your surroundings but rather how you feel about yourself.
Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat? Snapchat all dayyyyyyy. @tokenhiphop
What goes down in my DMs: A lot of pictures of middle-aged men holding bongs because they assume that Token refers to smoking, as in “tokin’.” They are extremely let down when I tell them I don’t smoke.
Watch his video on REVOLT TV the week of October 17th, and let us know your thoughts by tweeting @RevoltTV and using the hashtag #SpotlightOnREVOLT