Singer-songwriter and producer TOSHI is no stranger to the music industry. As an independent artist and a music industry veteran with 10 years behind him, he has released a number of covers and original songs on SoundCloud. TOSHI’s pop break-up song “SAYONARA” has 21,000 streams, and his pop-punk ode to never growing up, “Hi & Goodbye,” gained over 9,000. The Chinese Japanese musician also has garnered over 20,000 followers on Instagram, building a dedicated fanbase willing to travel across states to see him perform. Yet, 23-year-old TOSHI is working his way up to make an even bigger name for himself in the music industry.

After spending the day rehearsing for his upcoming concert the next day, TOSHI hopped on Zoom while in his pajamas to speak with EnVi. The New York-based singer discussed his emergence as an artist, the hardships he has faced, his future plans, and his love for his fans. 

Becoming TOSHI

While TOSHI has only been a singer for two years, he’s approaching his 10th year in the entertainment industry. In middle school, he was scouted to be a trainee by a K-pop company he chose to keep nameless due to his dance skills. TOSHI noted that because he was not a good singer back then, the company pushed him to be a rapper even though he had no interest in being one. While TOSHI left the company for personal reasons, he realized that music could be a possible career choice for him. He revealed that right after quitting being a trainee, he had his first real rap experience through J. Cole’s album 2014 Forest Hills Drive. He said the album changed his life and deepened his love for the genre. 

For years, TOSHI had a career as a rapper under the stage name 7SUI, inspired by his surname Tsui. While he still raps, he believed his career as a singer would be more fruitful. “Being an Asian American rapper is quite difficult if you’re not in K-pop just because if people look at you and see you’re this, like, cutesy Asian guy, no matter what you rap they won’t take you seriously.” TOSHI said. So TOSHI made an effort to improve his singing ability. Every day for a year, he sang a cover of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” to teach himself how to sing. 


Thank you guys 🖤 I can’t wait to drop this song finally #fypシ #music

♬ original sound – TOSHI

TOSHI also was encouraged by his mentor Ted Park. He met the K-rapper when Ted was still an underground artist, years before he was signed to Jay Park’s H1gher Music label. TOSHI said spending time with Ted in the studio helped him improve as an artist. In a studio session together, TOSHI was inspired by Ted’s ability to freestyle and record a song in less than an hour. The “SAYONARA” singer revealed that due to his OCD, he does everything to the best of his ability; if he doesn’t, he will get a headache. Witnessing Ted’s freestyle made TOSHI realize that he overthinks when writing lyrics. In the past, TOSHI would take weeks to write lyrics, but now he makes a beat and then records while freestyling.

“Although it’s not like the best way to write music, I do think it works best for me. Because since my mind is cluttered a lot with OCD and stuff, [freestyling] really helps me figure out exactly what I want to convey in the moment. Even if sometimes by doing this, the lyrics become a little more basic, per se,” TOSHI said. “I think it’s just more true to myself rather than sitting back and then thinking too hard about it, and then not actually wording it exactly how I wanted to word it.”

Taking the Risks

TOSHI revealed that he isn’t bound by a singular genre, but hyper-pop and pop-punk sounds are heavily prevalent in his music. He added, “I’m just taking influences from every artist I like. I think it’s really hard for me to say I’m a specific genre honestly because I really like all music.”

In July 2022, TOSHI released his first EP My microphone broke so I recorded this tape on $5 earbuds on SoundCloud. The six-track project featured five covers and an original song, “SAYONARA.” Before uploading the EP, TOSHI expressed he was worried because producers and fellow industry friends told him that his first project should be top-tier quality and recorded in a really good studio. This stress weighed on TOSHI, especially since his peers told him that his first project would define his entire career. However, he decided to take the risk, influenced by his fans asking for official releases.

“I was just like, ‘You know what, this is the one time I won’t listen to my higher ups or friends who are bigger than me, per se. And I’ll just do my own thing.’ And I realized that people just like music; people who like music will just make music on anything,” TOSHI said. He realized music can be made on anything, whether in a studio with equipment worth thousands of dollars or on $5 earbuds.

Collaborating with keshi

TOSHI shared that his biggest fear about releasing his original music is that he’ll receive a lot of negative feedback. He said that’s why, along with the stress of choosing the correct songs to include and the funds required, he hasn’t released an original album yet, despite having over 300 songs recorded in the past two years. However, with the positive feedback he has received about his EP, TOSHI plans to release his first album later this year.

He teased that one of the songs will include a feature from R&B singer keshi. In a rather unique story, TOSHI shared he met keshi at a concert in 2018 when the singer was still doing shows in front of 100 people. After the concert ended, keshi stayed and talked to the audience, introducing them to his team and friends. 

Image courtesy of Kayla Gayle.
Photo courtesy of TOSHI.

TOSHI used the opportunity to reach out to keshi: the young musician introduced himself as an aspiring rapper and asked keshi if he would like to collaborate. Once keshi agreed, TOSHI sent him an audio file of the song, to which keshi replied with three versions of a verse. Keshi gave TOSHI permission to use the files whenever he pleased. 

TOSHI said due to his bad habit of waiting, he still hasn’t released the song. He currently has 20 versions of the song where he now sings, rather than raps, to accompany keshi’s vocals. But now, he plans on releasing the keshi verse on an upcoming song on his album.  

Hitting the Stage

TOSHI shared that his favorite part of being an artist is performing. He’s been on stage for most of his life, from talent shows and plays during his school life to now sold-out concerts.

“I love recording and I love making music but I like physically seeing how people react to my music and the little nuances that I put on purpose so that the crowd would cheer or yell and stuff like that,” he revealed. 

TOSHI recalled the story of his first ever performance, warning readers that what he did was a terrible idea and they should never do it. When TOSHI was in his freshman year of high school, he was active on a social media platform dedicated to photographers. One day, he met up with a 31-year-old man who said he’d take photos of TOSHI for an underground gallery. The man then invited TOSHI to the event, which had a minimum age requirement of 21 to enter. The DJ invited TOSHI to rap on stage, and he took the opportunity to perform his original song “Open Letter” for a room of about 60 people.

“The reason why I wrote this song was because I was really into my J. Cole deep era. So the whole song was about me writing an open letter to like people who feel the same way I do. I was like 15 years old and I didn’t have parents; I didn’t know what I was doing in life. So all the lyrics were about being confused in life,” TOSHI said. 

Since then, he’s opened for artists such as Ted Park, trainee rapper BEOM HAN, and singer Jay Chang. TOSHI revealed that he gets nervous before his performances so he uses a trick to get through them: taking his glasses off. He shared that he’s “basically blind” and that when he’s onstage the crowd looks like “one uniform blob.”

The day after this interview, TOSHI was set to perform at his sold-out show at the Jam Nest in New York. The show sold out in just three hours with TOSHI setting the general admission tickets to be free. He revealed that rather than making profit from the concert, he actually lost money due to covering the costs of the free tickets. Despite that, he said that he makes it a goal to do at least two free shows a year. He promised he’ll book a bigger venue in the future so more people have an opportunity to attend. 

TOSHI shared that when he was younger, he wasn’t able to see his favorite artists; now as an artist himself, he wants anyone of any financial position to be able to come to his shows. “A lot of [the] poor communities or lower middle class just can never afford to go see their favorite artists. And, same with me, I grew up really poor so I never once in my entire life [have] even been to a rock concert,” TOSHI said. “My first rock concert was my own concert, which is insane.”

Power in Transparency 

Through both his music and online presence, TOSHI has been transparent about his upbringings. He’s shared stories with his fans about the hardships he faced from growing up poor and without a support system. 

TOSHI discussed how he wasn’t able to relate to artists he grew up listening to because they all seemed to have a supportive family. “I couldn’t understand anything they were talking about [because] I didn’t have anyone to go home to or have any backup or anything at all. So I think it’s really good for me to make it transparent [to my fans].”


I think this was my punishment for skipping dance practice just to attend this event🤣 @7.toshi #toshi #7toshi #kpop #kungfutea #kungfuteafortworth

♬ original sound – Bekka💜

In his performances now, TOSHI makes an effort to include scripts or share personal stories between songs. He thoughtfully said that he aims to make his concerts a really personal experience so that everyone feels they got something out of it. “I know I do shows sometimes for a lot of people who don’t even know who I am,” Toshi said. “So when I go on stage and I do my best then people really feel it and then afterwards they become a fan because of just that one performance and they stick with me forever. It’s like, ‘Okay, I know I’m doing something right.’”

He added that his current level of fame allows him to have a personal relationship with his supporters. “I think now that I’m an underground artist and no one really knows who I am, I really appreciate my fans right now because they’re really here from the beginning. So I get to know everything about them and they know everything about me and these are moments I cherish.”


❤️😔 I’m aware that I was in tears #fypシ #kpop #toshi #7toshi

♬ pluto projector – al

Support in Friendship

He later found his support system in friends he’s made in the industry. He said he met his best friends BEOM HAN and Jay when he was employed by “a really shady Korean company” to be their rap teacher. 

TOSHI shared that he couldn’t imagine his life without them, as all their careers have grown with each of them at the others’ side. TOSHI disclosed that the three made a promise that one day they would share the stage performing on an award show. He said he’s really working towards making that dream come true. 

While still in high school, TOSHI created a dance collective called 7 Sins Crew with BEOM HAN and Jay as members. TOSHI soon became friends with other members that included independent trainee Wu Tammy from “Girls Planet 999” and singer Lim from World Klass. 7 Sins Crew soon became a catalyst for the members’ careers. TOSHI revealed that the collective led to Jay’s participation in the survival show “Under Nineteen” and BEOM HAN’s signing to FM Entertainment. 

“The reason why 7 Sins was created [succeeded], so I’m happy about that. It really pushed us further and now we’re all in our respective careers,” TOSHI said. TOSHI also expressed that he hopes in the future he’ll be able to scout artists and start a new generation of 7 Sins Crew. 

Breaking the Norm 

While TOSHI is not a K-pop artist, he said the misconception that he is one leads the way for him to achieve one of his main goals: to make changes in the industry. TOSHI shared that he left being a trainee for multiple reasons, including the forced measuring of his weight and the stigma around speaking on certain topics such as the LGBTQ+ community and Black Lives Matter. 

“I think the cool thing about being seen as a K-pop artist is I get to be invited to so many K-pop type events, because my audience is a lot of K-pop fans, and I’ll get booked for that. And while I’m there at these events, I can really make a statement like ‘…You can just be yourself and we’ll figure out a way to succeed.’ So I think that’s a blessing in disguise even though it’s kind of a curse at the same time.”

Image courtesy of TOSHI.
Image courtesy of TOSHI.

TOSHI also shared that he hopes to create an accepting and safe place for everybody, including his friends. He said that after Lim came out as transgender, a lot of companies wouldn’t take her in. He wants companies, including his own in the future, to sign openly gay and transgender artists. TOSHI added, “I’m not just exclusive to that. I’ll sign anyone that is good at music. I want to be the first label that’s like, ‘Yeah, we do not care,’ especially for Asian artists. I do not care if you’re trans, gay, [your] race, or anything. If you make good music and you’re a good person, you’re in.”

Looking Ahead with TOSHI

Fans can expect to see more music from TOSHI this year with his upcoming album and concerts. Meanwhile, spending most of his life in the music industry has left TOSHI with the aspiration to improve it. He also hopes that his story will inspire others; he wants others to know that they do not have to fit the convention to succeed and be accepted by others. 

“My biggest goal is to prove to everyone that like some kid in his bedroom can make music with earbuds and then get really far in life. And you don’t have to follow the norm to succeed.”

To stay up to date with TOSHI, follow him on Instagram and TikTok. Also, be sure to check out his music on SoundCloud and YouTube

Want to learn more about emerging and veteran Asian artists? Check out EnVi‘s 2023 Head in the Clouds recap here!