Tommy Genesis is the latest of many great gems to be found on Awful Records. Glamcult met the young Canadian rapper just before her last gig in Paris, a few weeks ago. Her beauty instantly reminded us of M.I.A. and rightly so, as Tommy shared with us that during her youth, from her roots, there weren’t a lot of women she could identify with in terms of beauty ideals. M.I.A., however, played a big role. Discovered in 2014 by Father after posting some songs on Soundcloud, Tommy released her debut album World Vision last year. Ever since, she keeps embarking on interesting collaborations, recently teaming up with label mate ABRA, as well as with Ye Ali and Wes Period for an EP called Baby.Daddi. Get to know her here.
We understand you were into art before being into music, making videos as well as sculpture. Do you still have time for this or are you just focused on your music career now?
Yes, I’m actually thinking of moving to LA! First of all for the city and its weather, you can’t really be sad in LA, right? My skin and make-up need sun! But I’m also really excited to move there for the idea of getting a studio to spend hours working on my art.
Speaking of video, is there any artist you’d like to collaborate with for your next music video?
That’s an interesting question. What I’m going to answer is so far-fetched, but I think it’d be cool to do something with Werner Herzog. He’s my favourite filmmaker. He doesn’t even have to do anything with music; it could be a short documentary or whatever.
And what about photography?
I don’t really know much about photography. But I like flash photography so whoever is down to do something with flash, I’ll be up for it.
Who shot your album cover and official press portraits?
A girl from Vancouver called Katrin Braga. She’s from Iceland, but she lives in Vancouver now.
When I’m in Vancouver, she basically shoots everything.
Your album deals a lot with sex, and it’s often provocative. It’s hard to picture you quietly in the studio, working on your sculptures. What do you think of your “bad girl” image, does the media perhaps construct it?
I think the way I choose to be perceived is a choice. For example, on Twitter, I’m basically just tweeting random thoughts and feelings. If you go to my Instagram account, the photos you see and the general aesthetic, that’s what you take to judge me. The same counts for my music, the lyrics and the way it sounds. But of course there’s so much you can’t control as an artist. It’s a lot of stress and it stresses me out when I do something and then I can’t take it back. Especially during shows when I’m rapping and there are fans standing in front of me with the camera in my face, all I can think about is the way I look. Or there’s the opposite situation when you don’t know when people are taking photos. For example, the other day someone uploaded all my Periscopes on YouTube. So even if I deleted them, he still has them. I think it’s crazy how you can’t take anything back but on the other hand, it just means that people are looking for you…
In terms of image, is there any woman who inspires you these days for what she does or what she has built?
When I was young and in high school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after. Whether I should apply for art school or general programs in university. I don’t know why, but I was really focusing on politics at that moment. But anyway, a pivotal point in my adolescence was following politics in the Middle East and reproducing images I saw in the media. I connected with their cultures and it made me upset as a kid that I had no voice. So, I started to do all these paintings, mixing watercolours, and that’s why I applied for art school in the end. I got really inspired by the media images shared on the Internet at the time. Right know, the media has the opposite effect on me and I look for inspiration in real life.
So how did you start making music?
I grew up playing piano. My family is kind of cool; my parents are good at a lot of things but never really talk about this. They would never say they are “musical” but my dad was always listening to music, exposing me to lot of videos and songs when I was a kid. When we were going on trips, he used to play Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash in the car. Today I go back to these artists when I feel like I don’t have so much direction in my music. Bob Dylan had a big influence on me has a kid; I used to write a lot of poetry. I also had a friend who played guitar and he taught me a bit how to play. I started to write songs, mainly ballads, because of him. [Laughs] They were weird… they were like sex odds but I was really inspired by him, he was a big one.
I think my first musical experience was when I graduated from high school and I started making music, but I was always in bands before. At that time I didn’t really think of music seriously. I had others projects too, but they weren’t mine. This current project is the first time that I was saying to myself: “Ok, I’m going to do something on my own and post it on a platform to see what’s going to happen.” I have so much that I don’t release. Music can give me anxiety when I don’t have complete control. When I was in bands before, there was stuff I wouldn’t have released, that I didn’t really approve of but then since you are making songs with other people, you have to deal with it and stuff just gets released.
When you were working on the World Vision album, did you already know that it was going to be released on Awful Records or did Father approach you after that?
In October 2014, when Father approached me to work on the song Vamp, after its release I told him that I was going to work on an album. We didn’t say anything to each other at that moment. I kind of kept releasing stuff and working on my own. When he released his album Who’s Gonna Get F***** First? in March 2015, he told me: “You’re the only one on this album who’s not signed at Awful, do you want to be part of it ?” Basically we started it from there. Then I met more or less all the artists signed at Awful, like ABRA. She’s someone that I get along with very well creatively and non-creatively. Today, she’s a friend, she’s my baby!
So about all the sex on your album…
[Laughs] Ok, here we go. Fair enough. The funny thing is that when I was making World Vision, I wasn’t like: “This album is about sex!” I released it, and then I was like: “Oh shit! This album is really about sex!” Then everybody started to talk about how explicit I was and questioning: “What does this and this mean?” But for me, I wasn’t really thinking about that when I was making it. I was obviously unconsciously thinking about these kinds of things. I feel like, even this year, I calmed down a little bit. Whenever I’m not satisfied sexually, my music is about sex. So that was a very frustrated, unhappy period. I use music to kind of deal with these things.
I have a younger sister and I was listening to World Vision yesterday, just going through the tracks, asking myself: “What if I had an album that literally a 12-year-old girl could listen to? Could it still be as good? As committed? Could it still bring across the same messages?” I’m asking myself those questions because I don’t want my music just to live inside one box. I’m fine with certain albums and songs living in boxes, but I don’t want all my music to be categorized and live in one closed box.
If you had to choose a new topic right now for the next one, what would it be?
I don’t know about the topic yet, but I have a lot of things to say. [Laughs] I’m not sure that I’m ready for an album for 12-year-olds though…