How One Teen Rap Prodigy Turned His Language Disability Into YouTube Gold

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Welcome back to Uncharted, an Uproxx original series highlighting the best artists you haven’t heard of, yet. With the support of our friends at Honda, we are following some of the best emerging talent as they follow their dreams and make great music.

On the list of things that might preclude a person from being a rapper, having a language learning disability has to be pretty high on the list.

After all, words are rappers’ stock in trade. It’s the lone genre where what you say is so undeniably in the spotlight, without the aid of bandmates playing, pulsing instrumentals, or a wonderful singing voice to mask sub-par lyrical construction. But for 17-year-old Ben Goldberg, it was just the first in a series of obstacles to overcome.

On top of being at a disadvantage due to disability, Goldberg had to deal with severe anxiety and, as a white Jewish kid from outside of Boston, falling well outside the typical demo of rappers. His stage name, Token, was born from this.

“The first times I was writing, I wrote about feeling different, feeling like I was in my own section,” he said. “Token can mean the only one. A token white person is the only white person. A token Jew is the only Jew.”

Goldberg started out writing poetry to deal with his issues, but soon turned to hip-hop.

“What helped me deal with [my anxiety] was writing. When I was young, I didn’t want to talk about it because I worried people wouldn’t take me seriously,” he said. “It didn’t start as rap but a diary that was more poetry than diary.”

Having been introduced to hip-hop at a “wicked young” age by his sister, it didn’t take long for those diaries to become something else. By 10 years old, Goldberg was setting his writing to beats and recording the results. Far from a hobby or some minor dalliance, Ben became obsessed with making music. And it’s no wonder — Ben sees writing raps as a compulsion, something he has to do.

“A switch goes off and I need to get something out,” he said, adding that being able to turn the feelings into songs people can enjoy is particularly sweet. “The idea of people liking my stuff is like a ‘haha’ to all the people who didn’t take me seriously or thought I was just some troublemaker.”

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