From TikTok Trending to the Charts - Meet Akintoye!
On TikTok Toronto-artist Akintoye (22) has 2.5 million followers, which can be both a gift and a curse to a young creator. In the short time that TikTok has been around, it’s heavily influenced the sound of pop music and has given new artists a platform to display their talent. However hip-hop artists on TikTok tend to get painted into the label “TikTok rappers” and have a difficult time breaking out of that mold.
Akintoye has made many viral TikToks showing off his creativity, sense of humor, and sincere rapping ability. Not only has he made freestyles and songs that’ve been viewed millions of times, his song “Pizzazz” has gone viral as a
that thousands of creators on the platform have used to make their own videos.
Over the last two years Akintoye has parlayed his viral success and rapping ability into millions of Spotify streams on multiple songs, but how else will he separate himself from his peers and break free from the label of “TikTok rapper?”
HOT 97 sat down with Akintoye to discuss his successes, how TikTok changed his life, and his future plans.
Jason Peters of HOT 97: So how did you get into hip-hop?
Akintoye: I'm from Toronto, Canada but initially from Lagos, Nigeria, but I ended up moving to Toronto when I was nine years old. My music background is sort of weird, I was in middle school, I didn't really know nobody, and I kind of was on my own.Then one day my teacher was like you know, we have a little end of the year concerts where they get the kids together and they like hold hands and they sing a song, you know what I mean? Yes. So, we had one of those “Waving Flag” cause this is right around like…
Jason: K’naan! K’naan was popping back then around that World Cup!
Akintoye: Yeah! Yeah!
was huge and my teacher was like, all right, we're gonna do the Canadian
rendition that had all Canadian artists and there was a Drake verse on there. So my teacher was like,
“Hey, we need somebody to rap the Drake verse. Do you wanna rap the Drake verse?”
And I was like 10 years old so, I was like, yeah!
So after that performance, I went home and I started writing verses for the first time. Through my childhood and teenage years I spent most of the time just diving into the culture. Then when I went to college in 2017 I decided, you know what, I'm gonna just start making music, like, why not? And at first, it was garbage. The music was terrible.
Jason: It's never good at the beginning. It's never good at the beginning. (laughing)
Akintoye: Awful. (laughing) It was atrocious like some of the worst music anybody could ever possibly make. But I stuck with it and put a couple years in and just learned the craft and understood what I was doing.
I was pretty much figuring it out by myself. Then a friend of mine and I linked up one day and he was like, yo, like, “you know how to make beats, right?” And I was like, “this is the first time you ever told me about that.” (laugh) So we linked up and we started recording and that's when it started clicking.
Right before COVID in 2019, I had dropped an album that’s no longer available on streaming, but I had dropped a project at the time. So my friends and I put together this show in the city and we pulled together a hundred people to just come watch us perform.
And it was so crazy to me. That same night I was like, all right. So this is the way we gotta get to the people that start doing these shows.
Jason: But then COVID hit?
Akintoye: COVID said, no, you are not. And I got asthma, so I can't be playing with that, you know what I mean? I just wasn't even risking it.
But yeah, so COVID hits and now I'm in the crib and I'm like, wow, I can't do anything. But like I was making all the music outta my crib so I can still make music, but it's just that I'm trying to figure out ways to reach people. And I kind of didn't know what to do, but my friends and I decided, you know what? Let's just start. Let's keep working on our music. We'll do it remotely. So that's kind of what we were doing.
Then I wanna say right at the end of April 2020, there was this challenge going around TikTok. It was like this rap challenge. And at the time I had never made content for TikTok. I had a TikTok and I only had it cuz the kids I was working with were like, “oh you gotta get on TikTok.” And I was 20 and I was like, “I'm too old for TikTok.”
Jason: Too old (laughing) at 20?
Akintoye: You know? I mean, this was me at the time thinking, yeah (laugh” I was like, “I'm too old for that.” That is a young person thing and then one of my homegirls was like, “just download it so I could send you stuff.”
Jason: Shout out to whoever that is.
Akintoye: Shout out to you Hannah, cause she's the one who legit made me go download this application, shout out.
Anyway I throw the first video up, not thinking nothing of it. I remember I had 44 followers and I knew all of them by name. These were the homies. I get the video up, I'm not thinking anything. Then that video just did some stupid numbers. It started taking off. I had never seen 10,000 views and we had like 10,000 views in one day and I was like, what? And by the end of the week we were in the millions, you know what I mean?
I've never tried this before.
So I’m like let me see how far I can take this. Lemme try another one. I posted another video and that one got like a million views and then another one and that got a million views. And I was like, oh wait, all right, this is a thing like, this is for real.
Akintoye explains that after going viral, things didn’t immediately take off. He finished college, moved back to his parents house, and continued to make Tiktoks every single day. Although his audience grew, it didn’t directly correlate to musical success.
Akintoye: I would wake up, roll outta bed, record the video, record the audio, record the video, go back, write another verse. And that's all I would do all day.
Jason: How irritating is it to see 1 million views and then have like less than a thousand dollars in your bank account and be at your mom's house? How's that feel?
Akintoye: I don't think people understand this about the way social media works. A lot of people that got 200,000 or 300,000 followers, a lot of them are broke. We are regular-degular folks, like social media, you don't get followers and then money lands in your pocket. That's not how that works.
Like when I posted the “I’m Broke” video, I had around a million followers on TikTok and I wasn't joking when I said, “yo, I’m broke.” I was looking at my bank account and was broke.
Jason: I’ve seen that video - that’s what made me follow you! (laughs) How did it feel having EARTHGANG duet your Billi freestyle?
Akintoye: I didn't think they were gonna see it. I didn't think nothing. I was thinking it's gonna be another one of the duets I do where I go on and I rap and it's fun and I enjoy it and like, that's pretty much it. But like right when I posted it, they almost right away within like 20 minutes, they reposted it. It's wild to me that stuff could reach people that I look up to, which is so insane to me cause I really do look up to those guys.
Jason: Do you have any inspirations on the move from social media to the industry?
Akintoye: Yeah. I'm more so trying to break the mold myself. I think the social media to like actual mainstream music transition is very difficult. I made a separation of like, you know, this is the social media stuff and then this is like the actual stuff. Like I had to make that distinction.