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When the Goan gets tough…: A Wknd interview with rapper Tsumyoki

His first reaction was one of disbelief, says Nathan Mendes aka Tsumyoki.

In 2021, Tsumyoki was signed by Gully Gang, the music label set up by Mumbai-based rap icon Divine. He was the label’s youngest musician and first Goan artist. ‘Goans are known for cover songs and wedding bands, dance music and maybe a bit of jazz. But there is so much creative talent here,’ he says.

When his manager called to say he had won Best Indian Local Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards (EMAs), the hip-hop artist was at home in Margao. “I rushed to my parents. There were literal tears of joy,” he says. “The award is great news for Goa, especially for the younger generation.”

When one thinks of music from that state, he adds, one thinks of cover songs and wedding bands, dance music and maybe a bit of jazz. “But there is so much creative talent here. Young folk are producing music that is new and original, particularly in the hip-hop space. With this award, people outside Goa can learn that this is happening too.”

Tsumyoki won for the song It’s Aight (featuring rapper Prophet Joegus), from his new album A Message from the Moon (June 2023).

And now we fall in love

But you play both sides

I feel the emptiness when you

Say your lines…

You took away my heart

Just to sell it twice…

It’s aight…

…goes a verse from the song about unrequited love.

In winning, the 22-year-old beat out nominees Divine, Mali, Dee MC and the indie group When Chai Met Toast. “They are all fabulous, and Divine has been my biggest inspiration, even before I signed on to his label Gully Gang Records. I am thrilled to win,” Tsumyoki says. “But the award does not change the way I view my work at all.”

He’s known for a while that he has talent. He wrote his first rap song at 16, for a friend, “just for fun, to pull his leg”. After that, he figured he could really do this, he says. That was in 2017.

Two years later, he co-founded a music collective. Goa Trap Culture consists of him and three former school mates: Daniel Siqueira aka Kidd Mange, Elton D’Souza aka Elttwo and Jayden Monserrate aka 2jaym. Together, their mission was to create new music, with a special focus on rap, their favourite genre.

The collective was soon performing locally and posting videos on YouTube, but it was Tsumyoki’s solo career that took off first.

He began to write prolifically in 2018, releasing the 14-track album RIP as well as 13 singles. In 2019, he had his first big hit in White Tee, a song about battling negativity. “The track signifies various things. Your mind is like a white canvas, and you don’t want it to get soiled. When you wear a white tee, you don’t want it to get dirty. Likewise you don’t want negativity in your life,” he says.

In 2019, he featured in a collaboration with the Goan rapper ZaDaRapper; he went in search of Divine that year too. The Mumbai-based rap icon had just launched his music label. “When he performed in Goa, I wandered around the venue with a USB hoping to give my music to him,” Tsumyoki says.

He didn’t meet Divine then, but his music would soon be noticed by the label’s CEO and co-founder, Chaitanya Kataria. In 2021, Tsumyoki became the youngest musician and the first Goan artist signed by Gully Gang Records.

“Working with Divine has been a dream come true. Today, he is not only an inspiration but a mentor egging me on to do bigger things,” he says.


Tsumyoki’s rap name is inspired by the Japanese word “tsuyoki”, meaning strong. His term, he adds, embraces vision, productivity and a positive mindset.

A Message from the Moon is his third solo album. “The title signifies that while everyone says the moon is shining, nobody gives credit to the sun. The album in many ways reflects the struggle I have gone through in creating my own music and having it heard.”

Tsumyoki is now working to expand his horizons and widen his reach. With help from Gully Gang, he is collaborating with musicians from other regions. The official video for Ek Do Ek, his song with the Delhi hip-hop artist Rawal, for instance, was released earlier this week. “It’s had 66,000 views in the first four days,” he says.

The 13 tracks on A Message from the Moon, feature collaborations with a range of Goan artists, including Kidd Mange, Prophet Joegus, Elttwo, 2jaym and Jaden Maskie.

Musically, besides Divine, his biggest influences have been American rapper XXXTentacion, and his own mother, Gianna Mendes. From XXXTentacion, he has learnt the importance of high production values. “My mother inspired me with her sheer confidence and belief in me. Her musical tastes are quite different. But she has always been involved, with whatever I’ve done, and I have always had her support.”

Now that his music has travelled beyond Goa, as he wanted, who is his target audience? “I’m aiming for the person who wants to listen to Tsumyoki,” the rapper says. “It may be someone who wants to heal, or discover themselves; someone who wants to deal with a tough situation, or tough people. What they’ve heard so far is only the beginning.”


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