The songwriter and rapper reveals the trials and tribulations that led to her passion as an artist, landing a long-lasting hit song with entertainment industry icon, Ice Cube and staying relevant
Rapper and songwriter, Toikeon “Ms. Toi” Parham is not new to the music industry. She made her way onto the music scene back in 1999, with a feature on Ice Cube’s classic club banger, “You Can Do It.” The single featured Mack 10 and was released on the “Next Friday” and “Save the Last Dance” soundtrack. The popular tune was among hip-hop and R&B fans, as well as today’s old school hip-hop radio audience. Toikeon’s significant work on the track established her ability and passion about her music career.
Eighteen years later, the seasoned artist is proud to have had a huge hit that forever lives in the ears and soul of older and younger generations. “Many artists don’t get the chance to make a long lasting hit record,” said Toi. She reflected on what she describes as a different era of hip-hop. “Before I even knew what it was going to be like, it felt special and now it really is, because hip-hop is not the same. I’m thankful to have been a part of that. It was a classic time,” she said.
Growing up, Ms. Toi was a long way from studio sessions and making hit songs with multi-platinum rappers. Being as transparent in her lyrics as she is in person, Toi doesn’t shy away from sharing her journey on how making music came about.
“I’m a writer foremost, that is how my teachers recognized me in programs where I got scholarships for writing and going to speak at places before I was even a rapper,” she states. “They helped me find my niche and I always give thanks to them. It was that push from them that kept the hood from trying to take me at times.”
Toi spoke about the challenges of moving to L.A. and playing the role of the older sister while her single mother worked. “I was born in Chicago. My mom had four daughters and moved us to Inglewood. Being that my sisters were babies and I was 6 to 8 years older than them, I would take care of the family while my mom worked. That became a strain on me along with the problems I was having in school” she said.
Inspired by her personal struggles, Ms. Toi honed in on her writing. “I didn’t know my creativity was causing people to draw towards me. My mom would always say I wish you would use your powers for good. Before I got expelled from school, I was in modern dance, drill team and competed in all types of competitions. I saw that I really loved to entertain and be in front of people, that was the good part of it,” she reveals.
Toi’s troubles took her to Sacramento where she began to explore her talent. “No school in the Los Angeles Unified School District wanted me, so my mom had to send me up there,” she states. “My uncle was in the Airforce, he had his family and a nice house. I had a chance to be on my own and identify with who I am, because I was always a big sister, little sister or just with my family. When I got the chance to fly like a little bird out of the nest, I explored my writing and began to write poetry.”
Her writing was a catalyst to mending relationships and a start to her career. Writing became therapeutic for Toikeon who carried a weight of troubles. Poetry was a positive influence, not only her but her family and led her to her dreams of entertaining.
“I began to express a lot of different things to my mom, like how I felt about being the trouble child in the family, and how I wanted to make it up to her. When I got back, I was in a group called Thick & the Girls. I was dancing at first, however, every night after the show, people would come up to me like I was the main person. I would introduce the fans to everyone that was in the group. I had that kind of love that was already there,” she said.
Ms. Toi’s gift of writing brought her life and passion for music into focus. Toikeon’s aspirations of becoming a rapper were promising. Her support from her boyfriend helped her to land her first manager.
“The guy I was dating at the time drove a limo. He came home one day and heard me rapping to a Bonnie and Clyde theme and told me that whoever gets in his car the next time, he was going to tell them about me,” she expressed. “The next person was Ronnie DeVoe’s (Bel Biv DeVoe) uncle Brooke Payne, and that was my first manager. Ronnie DeVoe and I did my very first recording in the studio, “Life Styles of the Rough and Sexy.” If nothing like that can inspire someone like me or a kid that is incorrigible, then I don’t know what can. That inspired me to pursue my music career.”
Despite her rough start, Toi’s path to making it in the music industry was falling into place.
“I joined rap group, “Militia” with Mr. Tan (“Baby Boy”) and three other guys. We had this song called “Lets Burn” (remix) that hit the West Coast airwaves and then that’s when my name started buzzing.”
Her career continued to lead to stepping stones and big breaks in the music industry.
Becoming an established artist led Toi to her collaboration with Ice Cube. “One of my good friends from 90’s rap group, “The Comrads,” K-Mac was in the studio with Ice Cube and they were doing the song “You Can Do it,” but they didn’t have the right person. They had already had two people do the song, but they didn’t like them. Thinking of me, K-Mac called me and asked if I could come do a hook for Cube, I had already met him, so I’m like of course. We did the hook and it came out, and a couple weeks later that was the single.”
“You Can Do it,” became a huge club hit in late 2000. She joined the “Up in Smoke” tour the same year and followed with a record deal with Universal, releasing her first solo album titled, “That Girl”, in 2001, “Handclap”, and “Can’t None Y’all.”
Toi’s rap career hit an all new high. However, the success of having a hit record, going on tour and signing to Universal couldn’t cement her career. She went through what many artists go through, when trying to have continued success in the music industry. She faced an uncertainty in spite of attaining success.
“I had a record deal with Universal, a R&B budget and was able to co-executive produce the first album,” she states. Toi credits the September 11 attacks as a cause to losing her record deal. “When 9/11 happened, Universal paid me and gave me all of my ownership to my music,” she stated. After being let go from Universal, I got back into the love of music and recorded “I Am a Warrior.” I had to create this warrior movement, because I’m a female in hip-hop that has not been recognized. The song talks about God’s grace and how I’m not afraid that I wasn’t given the chance, because I’m going to take it now, if my chance is now,” she said.
Toikeon faced hardships within the industry, however, she preserved herself and continued to embrace the journey of her music career. “I’m glad I experienced those trials and tribulations as a woman in hip-hop, because standing firm and letting my music speak for itself is always better,” said the rapper. “My music is still playing on the radio and I’m relevant. No one can tell me otherwise.”
On giving advice to aspiring artists, “When you’re an artist, you love what you do and you’re talented. Now it’s your job to register yourself on BMI, ASCAP or SESAC, to start your business. You don’t start it just being on the radio or being in the studio. This is where everyone messes up. You have to register your songs and give your producer credit, writers and publishing. You will have this song that will generate money and revenue for you for the rest of your life. Your owning yourself by doing that. I’m example of it because I was added to the publishing credits for “You Can Do It.” I own my digital rights, so when its generated and you hear it, it’s getting ready to pay me. Don’t look for the money if you haven’t taken care of the business first,” she said.
As she continues to enjoy her journey as an artist, Ms. Toi is building a brand running her own label, G.O Entertainment LLC. “I Am a Warrior,” is a series and I am on part three. This is my final edition of it and I’m dropping singles all year. “Slay” is my next single on my YouTube channel, Official Ms. Toi, where you can see my videos for this project. I have a role in a movie called “Kali.” It will be a wonderful project for people to finally see me doing something other than rap,” she said.
Toi who is a songwriter and rapper is a singer as well. She looks to Minnie Riperton, Chaka Khan, Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield as artists who have had an influence on her talent.
She recently released a new song called “Roses” featuring Klondike Kat that sample’s Curtis Mayfield’s “The Makings of You.” The Female Perspective Awards 2017 has nominated the single for Song of the Year.
“My music is being recognized and at the end of the day that makes me happy, Toi remarks.”
Toikeon has a song “Green Light that Green” from part one of “I Am a Warrior” featuring Ice Cube, Yuck Mouth and Nyce,” that is featured on “DJ Pooh’s (“Friday”) new movie “Grow House.” She’s working with a lot of great producers and The Game’s sister B.F.L.Y.
Despite her ups and downs, she continues to flourish in her career. “I’m continuing on my hip-hop love,” Toikeon concludes.
To keep up with Ms. Toi’s career follow her at @mstoirapper/Facebook, @ceo_goent/Instagram, @MsToiThatReal/Twitter and OfficialMs.Toi.