At 19, Preston Oshita “saw God.” “Something clicked in my brain and I started crying,” says the rapper, better known as Towkio, from his manager’s office in his hometown of Chicago. “For one slight second, every answer in the world was in my head.” That mystical experience has given the now-24-year-old musician the fortitude to take his burgeoning career in stride. “I’m the vehicle,” he says. “I’m just here for the ride.”
As the first rapper signed to Rick Rubin’s American Recordings since the mid-’90s, Towkio is poised to break big with the release this year of his debut full-length album, World Wide .Wav. Commercial success, however, isn’t what drives him. “It’s definitely bigger than sales,” he says of his ambition. “As an artist, I don’t think you’re ever satisfied. I’m excited to dive into the next phase, the next evolution.” Recorded at Rubin’s Shangri-La studio in Malibu, the songs on the album are anchored by throbbing dance beats that incorporate elements of house, EDM, and his city’s footwork scene. It’s a showcase for Towkio’s elastic brand of hip-hop: on “Drift,” a meditative digital thrum explodes into a giddy, manic dance party with Towkio as the narrator.
The son of a Mexican mother and a Japanese father, Towkio grew up on Chicago’s North Side, where he fell in with a group of kids who would eventually become the SaveMoney crew, a creative collective that includes Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, and Joey Purp. As Chance and Vic began to be recognized on the national stage, Towkio received quieter critical notice for his 2015 mixtape, .Wav Theory. Finally releasing his own LP, he says, “is a weight off my shoulders”—and yet his gaze is firmly on the future. “I’m gonna just keep smacking them in the head with this shit. And then on to the next one.”