In Conversation: Toosii Invites Listeners Into an Inspirational and Aspirational World with “Poetic Pain”
The North Carolina–based rapper shares how his past shaped second album of 2020.
Toosii doesn’t take a traditional approach. With his newly released project Poetic Pain, the North Carolina–based rapper creates a sonically and thematically diverse world that channels the lessons he learned while being homeless, watching his mom work to provide for his family, and interacting with women vying for his attention. He’s got the braggadocio track “Blitz,” which features sly football references, as well as the wordplay-heavy “Right Now,” which showcases words of wisdom. Then there’s the sexually explicit hit “Love Cycle” with Summer Walker that serves as a foil of sorts to “Euphoria,” where he delves into the bliss of a mutually reciprocal relationship. It adds up to an inventive aural experience full of surprising lyrical and musical twists.
A prolific artist who has released dozens of songs in the last few years, the twenty-year-old rapper has had to adjust to a number of life-altering events in his quest for stardom. In our Q&A, Toosii explains how reading the dictionary helped him and why people should look to him for motivation.
I really liked the guitar and singing on “Euphoria,” and you’re talking about adoring a girl. That’s a little bit different from a lot of your other stuff, so what made you take that angle?
I just felt like it was such a beautiful track. When I heard it, I was looking for a word for making somebody feel flattered, feel bashful. What’s something that could give a person that sudden feeling of excitement? I feel like whenever I’m around a specific type of person, that’s the feeling I get. When you’re in love that’s the type of feeling that you give a person. So I came across the word “euphoria” and I just turned it into a song. It’s crazy because then I heard about the show Euphoria. The word “euphoria” was trending on Twitter and I thought they were talking about my song and it was actually talking about the show.
You release a steady stream of music, and you’re very active online. Where does your work ethic come from?
My mom. My mom is hard-working. I’ve got a lot of hard-working people in my family in general, though. I moved quite a bit, from Syracuse, New York to Goose Creek, South Carolina, and back. Then I moved up here to Raleigh, North Carolina when I was, like, thirteen, fourteen. Growing up, I was watching all the things that my mom had to do in order for us to make ends meet, for us to feel like we had everything in the world, even though we didn’t. She was a hard-working woman. I can remember when she used to work at this gas station up here called Han-Dee Hugo’s. She was constantly waking up every morning for work. To this day, she’s a hard-working woman. It made me who I am because if I wasn’t so hard working, I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now.
How did you come up with the title Poetic Pain?
I feel like my pain is art. My pain is equivalent to what poetry is, and poetry is art. I was looking for something that could symbolize who I am as an artist, who I am as a person. I speak for a lot of broken people. Every time I speak it’s coming from a broken soul. I feel like my pain is beautiful.
“I used to be homeless and I come from a bad area, but now I’m in a good place… I’ve gotta find a way for everybody to feel like they understand where I’m coming from, like they’re a piece of me, a piece of my art.”
Then you start off the project with “Sinners Prayer” where you’re talking about all that you’ve been doing is praying. Where does that come from?
I’m big on prayer. My grandma and my granddad, rest his soul, used to work in the church. Being that they used to work in the church, I grew up in a church-based family. Every time my grandma would see me, she prayed for me. It was my second tattoo, praying hands. And they say, “Pray for me.”
On your projects, you address so many different topics. As a writer, how do you find that you’re able to tap into all these different parts of yourself on one project?
Man, I live such a crazy lifestyle. I live more than one lifestyle. I used to be homeless and I come from a bad area, but now I’m in a good place. It’s like I’ve still got to reach out on those topics. I’ve gotta find a way for everybody to feel like they understand where I’m coming from, like they’re a piece of me, a piece of my art. I do that by trying to touch as many topics as I can. If I see something and I feel like speaking on it, then that’s just what I feel like speaking on.
What did being homeless teach you?
I was homeless about five years ago. It was five of us sleeping out of a motel off of Old Wake Forest Road. It honestly helped me because it taught me to be thankful. Everybody copes with things differently. So that pain that I endured might be equivalent to whatever they was feeling when they went through whatever they went through. You can never judge a person, even if he’s from the suburbs. You could be from the nicest area in your town or you could be from the worst area in your town. We might feel the same pain—not from the same thing, but we might feel the same pain. So honestly, it just made me be thankful where I came from because I knew where I was going.
With the diversity of the subject matter and looking at relationships in different ways like you do on Poetic Pain, what do you draw from?
Growing up, I used to read a lot. I used to read the dictionary a lot because I used to look for new words to use in my songs, like “Sapiosexual,” “Euphoria,” certain things from the Bible. One of the songs on my project is called “Psalm 51.” My two favorite subjects in school were English and math because I like money and I like rapping. I had to learn how to combine them. I had to know words to be able to put into my raps.
I think there are some really aspirational or inspirational things in your music. It seems like encouraging people is important to you. How do you feel your music is affecting people?
Man, listen. I’m a living testimony. I’m motivation. I used to be homeless. Now I live in almost a million-dollar home. My car is worth $140,000 and I’m only twenty. I used to be homeless, so if this is not motivation, I don’t know what motivation is. FL