Save Money affiliate Towkio dropped his debut mixtape, .WAV Theory, at the end of April. The project, executive produced by the Social Experiment’s Peter Cottontale, hops from EDM-fueled club songs to stream-of-conscious rap verses to serious personal reflections in an impressive display of artistry. The single “Heaven Only Knows” with Chance the Rapper has also blown up online, racking up over seven million streams on SoundCloud. Complex caught up with Towkio to talk about his relationship with Chance and Vic Mensa, the origins of his Save Money affiliation, and all the details of .WAV Theory.

Chris Mench is a writer living in North Carolina. Follow him @Chris_Mench.

One of the first things you talk about on “Clean Up” is how you’ve been watching your friends like Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper blow up while you’ve been more on the sidelines. Has the wait been frustrating for you?
Nah, not at all. If anything it made me even more driven. These are my best friends that I’ve known for so long. At one point we were all equals. We all wanted to make music and then to see the homie really turn up and see what it takes. It’s like Chance and Vic, those are my brothers, those are my equal brothers. I see them as equals, so I’m like if they can attain this, then I for sure can attain this. Right now I’m just working.

Peter Cottontale of the Social Experiment executive produced the album. What made you go to him, and what do you think each of you brings to the table?
Peter is so good with music theory and music in general, and has such a wide knowledge of music that his influences and the way he’s able to recreate things is exactly where my mind is…. He just has a lot more of a musical background. So he’s able to translate some of the things that I wouldn’t be able to. Him and Nate Fox and Donnie Trumpet, all of the Social Experiment, those are my homies and my brothers too. I’m just blessed to be able to work with them on my project.... It’s just dope to be surrounded by such talented musicians and producers, and a lot of people don’t get that. Save Money is surrounded by musicians as well; what a lot of people don’t understand is that we really do the music aspect. We are a crew and we are rappers, but this music is real.

Obviously you rap on all the tracks but then you also produce on a good amount of them. How would you define what you are?
Realistically I consider myself an artist, and music is just my vehicle. I like all types of art, but I’m doing music. So I started as a rapper, and I’m a rapper first of all. Then as you start learning music you learn doubles, and so many things you don’t know as a rapper. So for me it was like, I’m gonna learn all of this shit and I’m gonna do it because I can’t fully vibrate, I can’t fully give them exactly what I hear unless I’m controlling all the aspects of it. So .WAV Theory was a process of me making music, but it was also a process of me learning how to make music fully. I would consider myself an artist, but I produce, I sing, I rap. The labeling is something people like to do, but for me I’m gonna just keep making music, every aspect of it.

So having a hand in all the aspects of it helps you make the music more personal?
Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. Nobody can make music like me because I’m touching every aspect of it. They can make music that sounds like whatever, but it’s not my vibration. It’s not the way I would choose, because you can start with one sound and there’s literally an infinite amount of ways you could go with it. So if I’m involved in the process, I’m going to choose the way that I would go, and then we just keep stacking those, and now you’ve got my formula versus somebody who was just trying to replicate it but wouldn’t know exactly where I was going. That’s the dope thing. During the time of me making music for .WAV Theory I’ve learned how to make music and I’ve developed my own kind of sound.

Chance and Vic, those are my brothers. I see them as equals, so I’m like if they can attain this, then I for sure can attain this.

Out of all the records, “Reflection” had a really personal feeling. You talk a lot about a girl. Is that someone from your life?
I definitely wrote that record about pretty women. It might be about a specific girl, it kind of is, but I feel like it fits for a majority of women. Or not even women in general, like that’s why on the second verse I kind of kept it ambiguous, because it speaks for everybody. It speaks for users and for men and women who aren’t users. That song is like, I wrote it about this woman, but it’s more so about the psyche of the mind. It’s like you’ve got something and it’s not enough, and then look at what you’re doing to yourself. That’s where the metaphor with the mirror came. I wrote the hook first before the song, and then that’s when I went back and wrote it about the girl, the experience.

How long have you been affiliated with the Save Money movement?
I went to grammar school with Joey [Purp]...so he’s probably one of my oldest friends, and we went to school around the corner from Jake and Nico [Segal] and Chance and Reese. We all kind of met each other and then fully met each other in high school. So it’s been like I don’t even know how many years.

Definitely a long time.
Yeah, a long time. They’re all my brothers. Save Money is more than just the rappers, there’s a whole crew of mothafuckers, but most people just know about the artists of it.

What does Save Money as a movement represent to you personally?
To me personally, see this is what it really is, and it can be defined in different ways, but Save Money came from us stealing clothes. You want something nice, you get it. I always liked nice things but I couldn’t afford it, so then I’m gonna go get it. I’m gonna go find a way to get these jeans out of this store and not get caught. So for me, I define it by getting what you want by making it happen. If there’s a will there’s a way. So if you want these jeans and you can’t afford them, go ahead and save money then. That’s how I define it because Save Money is like a culture. We finesse, we create our own shit, and we make things happen that we want to make happen. That’s what it is for me.

Heaven Only Knows” has blown up the most online. Have you been surprised about how big of a response it’s gotten?
I knew the record would be big. I did not know it would do what it’s done obviously. I knew it was a big record, but the reception has been amazing because that’s what I’ve been trying to do. What I’m offering is not the game right now. It’s music with function. Music is actually therapeutic, and it actually can do the same thing drugs can do. It sends endorphins to your brain and all of that. So for me to focus on making music that has function, that can help people, and then for people to hear it, and its actually helped them and actually worked, and it can actually be like, Oh shit, this is something that’s new and its working and people understand me, that’s been the world. When people come and tell me that it helped them through hard times and how its therapeutic, it’s like that’s exactly what I was doing it for.

What’s the one thing from .WAV Theory that you really want people to come away with?
A new perspective, and then to just be open to it. If they’re open to it and they listen to it and they start to see it in their real lives then hopefully it just helps them. So really it’s like me just offering my perspective and for me to hope that everybody else feels the same way.

What I’m offering is not the game right now. It’s music with function.

So just sort of a window into your life?
Yeah, exactly. And there’s more to come. I feel like I have this understanding that I got a couple of years back and I still haven’t fully finished explaining it to everybody, but that will come with more music and time. I feel like I have a purpose to spread what I know. It almost feels like a vision, but it’s just me. I need to let people know what I thought before I die, because I had a homie that passed away and the only thing that was left was his music on iTunes. That made me very serious about the content, because I’m a fun person. I make multiple types of different music, and I like to make fun music, but I also am a serious person. So I don’t want people to only see the fun side of me.

So now that you’ve got the mixtape out, what’s next?
I’m gonna drop these videos and then get on tour. Y’all gotta see me live because it’s a whole other experience. So really I’m just trying to get the music out in front of a bunch of people. It’s crazy because I’ve been making new music with a bunch of hot ass producers, and it’s like I want to follow up already, but .WAV Theory is very important, so I’ve got to let it marinate and spread.

Any chance we’re gonna see you on Surf?
[Pauses] I don’t know. [Laughs.] Surf changes by the minute, I’ll tell y’all that much, but it’s a big secret.