In 2015, Tommy Genesis introduced ‘fetish rap’ to the world. With her unapologetic, compelling, sexually-infused lyrics and strong beat she has taken over the underground rap scene. But since then she has shown that her empowering and authentic narrative can bend genres. On her 2018 self-titled album, her bars are both intoxicating and enchanting and on her latest single, ‘I’m Yours’, Tommy has delivered another catchy tune that screams ‘confidence’ and ‘sensuality’.
Ahead of her appearance at Reading and Leeds Festivals NME met with Tommy in London to talk about her struggles within the music industry and also her exciting upcoming projects.
A lot of your songs focus on female empowerment; would you say that they are political?
“I do think that when I’m making music I consciously make the decision whether or not to say certain things. I used to do it just because that’s how I talk and the way I live my life. Now I do it because after all these years it can still shock people that I’m saying the word ‘pussy’.”
The music industry has a history of misrepresenting women. Is something changing?
“I will tell any aspiring artists; ‘do not sign a deal’. Just don’t do it. I wish it was a thing I knew before, but now that I’m in it, I don’t feel repressed or I don’t feel any type of way because I don’t leave my house. When I do go out, I’m like ‘shit, I need to learn how to be social again’. A lot of people say that I should take that wall down and go integrate myself in these communities, because that’s how the whole music business works – that’s how you have connections.”
A lot of people seem to think that you’ve shown your softer side on your debut self-titled album, but do you think your songs are even more powerful when expressed in a more delicate musical form?
“Yeah, I agree. I’m sitting on like 20 pop songs, but a lot of people just tell me that I should sell them or shop them around. There’s this one song I really love and everyone says it’s too pop for me, that I can’t put it out even though the lyrics are super Tommy, they’re really ‘fuck you’. I just like using different genres but I always say the same thing, so then my question is: does it matter?”
“People have a trajectory of how your career is supposed to be, they legitimately tell you at the label that you can’t just do all these things, that it messes up your brand. But like what the fuck is a brand anyways? As a person, as a human, as an artist you’re constantly changing and you’re constantly making new shit.”
You are a pioneer of fetish rap – do you think that it’s now somehow limiting that you are so associated with this genre?
“I think it would be limiting if fetish rap existed before but I literally just made the term up and now I see other people using it, which I love. I used to be paranoid that it was limiting because someone told me it was and then I realised the only thing that’s limiting is saying it is.”
“I also think people misunderstand what I meant by it because for me fetish obviously implies something sexual but it also just means that it’s not for everyone. But if you fuck with it, you really fuck with it.”
What are you working on now?
“I was initially working on a concept album. I was making something that’s more directed but I didn’t do that very well and every time I got in the studio I just made whatever I felt like. I have around 30 songs and now I’m trying to figure out which ones belong together, which ones should just be singles and when I can drop them. But they’re done. I’ve been making music since January, I’ve just been hiding – you’re the only one that knows this.”
“We got this one song, that’s like ‘100 Bad’, but on steroids. I cannot wait to shoot the video for it. It’s going to be wild. I have the idea in my head and I am very protective of it. I’m like, what if someone has a dream about it and they’re going to wake up and do this, like what if someone else has this idea.”
Can you see yourself redirecting your career from music to a different area of art?
“Not anytime soon, but I sometimes think about that pretty seriously because I don’t always like being the centre of attention.”
“I definitely want to direct and edit someone’s music video soon. I’ve shared directing and editing before and I really don’t like sharing. I don’t feel like the art is as good. It’s hard to explain your vision to someone, to communicate it without actually just doing it yourself. It’s not personal. It just literally can get lost in translation.”
Your song ‘I’m Gone’ with Jozzy recently featured in Euphoria. One of the stars, Hunter Schafer, even said that this is the song that helps her get into character. What do you think about the show?
“It’s just fire to see that everything is so current about the show – the outfits, the makeup and the music. Every song in it, I fucked with.”
“I’m just so happy this show exists because a lot of people think that it’s shocking but for me it feels like just a part of some stuff I’ve been through. There’s finally a show that isn’t apologetic for showing how shit sometimes goes down”