Taking A Leap Of Faith With Downtown Kayoto

“Our time on Earth is finite, so I really need to go hard, not only for me but for my family and for those who can’t,” Hull-based artist Downtown Kayoto aims to demonstrate his diligence in becoming a global sensation.

To celebrate the release of his new EP ‘Learning In Public,’ Downtown Kayoto opens up about embracing the freedom of Hull’s endless fields versus London’s suffocating concrete jungle. After finishing his biomedicine studies, he is now fully strapped into the whirlwind of being a musician.

As he rewatches the first seasons of Black Mirror, Zimbabwe-born Chiko Chinyadza, Downtown Kayoto delves into the 6-track ‘Learning In Public,’ as a sonically compressed self-discovery gap year journey of risk-taking and a plethora of life lessons.

‘Learning In Public’ operates on high energy vibrations, instant hooks, and genreless unique productions, creating his signature sound. Infatuated by the dazzling genius Tyler The Creator and A$AP Rocky, Downtown Kayoto champions his rap side on ‘LITE’ with cinematically outstanding collaborative visuals.

Downtown Kayoto proudly and confidently continues to chase his dreams. With his pace, they will no longer be dreams but his deserved star reality.

When and how did you get started making/writing music?

I’ve been doing musical theatre and music for ages but I only started making music in year 9 at school. We had a recording studio so me and my friend would rent it out and just make stuff, it was a safe space. Once I got the courage to make stuff at home I started to upload it to SoundCloud and stuff and with each release listening to more music which inspired me to make more. I’ve basically rinsed and repeated since then.

Is there a specific artist who majorly inspired you to pursue music?

Yeah I think it has to be Tyler, the Creator. The pure essence of who he is as a human and as an artist is what in essence I try to emulate and live by in my life/practice. You can feel his energy flowing off his skin when he talks… he literally glows when he speaks. It’s crazy.

What do you love the most about living in Hull?

Probably my family and friends and the fields and the open space near my house. Whenever I’m in London I’m like bruh this is too much sometimes. The buildings tower over me and I feel so small. So when I’m in the fields in Hull I like the fact that there’s a lack of human activity and a lot of greenery… I feel like I can breathe freely w/o judgement.

What is the backstory of your stage name Downtown Kayoto? 

I wanted a name that I liked so much that I wouldn’t have the urge to change it down the line. Downtown Kayoto was the 2nd name I came up with and I tested it out in my head to see if I would like it by sandwiching it between other artists names that I like to see if it would stick out in a bad way. It sounded good so I kept it and the rest is history.

How does he differ from your private self Chiko Chinyadza?

I wish I had a cool answer, but I’m Downtown Kayoto and he is me – nothing more, nothing less.

Why did you want to go to university, what did you study?

Initially I wanted to do medicine but halfway through the pandemic after releasing a few songs I felt that this was what I was out on Earth to do. Don’t get it messed up, I would’ve been an amazing doctor and when I think of how my family came to the UK so that I could be the best I could be and ask for the stars I have to do that… Our time on earth is finite so I really need to go hard, not only for me but for my family and for those who can’t.

At one point, you paused your studies to pursue music, was it difficult to leave school behind and focus on your dream? Are you still studying now?

At the time of writing this I’ve finished my studies, and I’m taking music seriously but I did take a year away from studying before my final year. It feels surreal that this is what I’m doing now. It feels like I’ve just taken my leap of faith and I’m suspended mid air before I touch grass… I’ve sacrificed so much and I refuse to fail now yanno.

For your 2021 release ‘NAVIG8’, you took inspiration from the ‘Get Out’ movie, could you share why you went with this direction?

Similarly to the other question, I wish I had a better answer other than I like Get Out. I always wanna push my boundaries and position myself near the deep end, not totally drowning but not too comfortable. When I’m in this position I know that I’m about to experience growth and this is what I prioritise, so doing a Get Out inspired vid that’s out of the box just fit with this.

Could you elaborate on how your current single ‘LITE’ came about?

I was in a state of FOMO and I just felt frustrated… I wanted to shout my frustrations out and that’s what I did. I wanted to add as much of my essence into the song and this was also me embracing my rap side and my love of chord switches and beat transitions. I wanted to have fun and to make something that I was proud of. This was all done with my boi Frankie Scoca, he’s one of the most talented people that I know and he worked on the production of this song – all done over Zoom for the better half of 6 months.

In April, you shot the ‘LITE’ music video in London. Who did you work with and what was the creative concept behind the visuals? 

I worked with a team of people put together by me, my manager Willem and my videographer Joe Howat. It was a pretty small team but we managed through pure hard work and creativity to execute the idea to its fullest, or at least to our fullest. We had Ethan Lodge as the DOP, Flynn Dennison as the first AC and Max Brent Marshall as the second AC. On styling I had my friend/Stylist Troy and me and Joe. I play a very large role when it comes to the creative direction of my work. As for the concept, the idea was just to make a fun charismatic and well executed video that was fuelled on the creative fumes of some of our favourite works that include, but I’m not limited to Belly directed by Hype Williams, A$AP Forever by A$AP Rocky directed by Dexter Navy and Britney by Col3trane.

What chapter of your life are you unfolding in your upcoming EP ‘Learning In Public’?

Learning In Public is an ode to the year I had away from my studies, in which I had high highs that were also accompanied by low lows, and the plethora of lessons that I learnt within this period of my life I will take on with me for the rest of my life. It was a time of self discovery. It was a time of taking risks.

Are these any lessons you took away from the recording process of this project?

Yeah, that I shouldn’t be too picky with the recording process and to begin to prioritise feeling emotion as opposed to technical perfection. As in the long-term the prior will just age, much nicer, and that I’m a pretty good engineer.

Do you have any fun plans this Summer, or later this year?

Yeah, besides graduating, I’ve got a ton of shows in the works: a pop-up on the 8th of July and the main stage slot at the biggest festival in my home city, Humber Street Sesh. I’m super grateful for what I have achieved thus far and what I have in store for me, but through the process of recording Learning In Public, I also found that it’s family and friends always because these are the people that will be there through the good and the bad, so I’m looking forward to enjoying summer of 2023 with my loved ones and my friends.

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Photographer: Joe Howat

Words: Karolina Kramplova