Tommy Genesis Is Born Again: “I love the idea of reinvention.”
In the moments before Goldilocks X, Tommy Genesis takes time to talk reinvention, inspiration, vulnerability, and the importance of creative control.
Tommy Genesis has been keeping busy.
An artist in many mediums, Tommy’s in town for New York Fashion week when we talk. It’s seven days of high fashion, blaring beats and catwalk sashays, all talents in which the Canadian emcee trades. She’s so relaxed, so down for discussion, it’s almost hard to believe Genesis is just days away from dropping her long-awaited sophomore LP.
“It's this interesting space, because it's between being really nervous and really excited,” she tells me as she starts on some fries. “When something is so personal and close to me and I'm giving it to the public, I always have both those emotions going on at the same time.” It’s an understandable angst, with Goldilocks X a bold, assured, and admirably vulnerable return to music.
The former takes centre stage on lead single peppermint, a simmering heater that finds Tommy revelling in her effortless dominance. A reintroduction to “the bitch that's born again,” it moves with a well-matched tension, crisp percussive beats punctuated by hyped squeals and knowing adlibs. In the bright self-directed music video, she channels Christ by way of Chris Burden, stretching herself across the front of a Lamborghini in a reclining crucifix. A woman is a god, and Tommy Genesis is born again.
“I love the idea of reinvention,” explains Tommy. “When it comes to visuals and moods and feelings and phrases, I very much believe in the phase as an artist. I really push myself to feel whatever I'm feeling, but when it comes to taking everything and putting it together and making a project out of it, I love to play with different phases.”
“I feel like the last album was very first base, like 'I'm going to try this, and I'm going to self-title it, and I'm just gonna put it out there and see what happens’,” says Tommy, casting her debut as an experiment of sorts. “It's always hard to go back and listen to something you've made a few years ago,” she adds. “When I listened to my self-titled project, before I started making this, I could barely listen to it. I just had so much criticism for it.”
A frank and deeply relatable admission – who amongst us hasn’t cringed in the rearview, creatively or otherwise? “I reminded myself: that's not helping you make a new project,” responds Tommy, striking a laundry list of irritating intrusions from her mind: “'Oh, fuck, I should have added more violin here,' or 'I should have added something here in this one space in the song,' or 'that hook shouldn't have come back again, it should come back different.'” In her eyes, a song is never finished, merely abandoned – a difficult perspective to reconcile with the finality of a record. “The making of it comes easy, but letting it go? I've had to learn how to do that.”
In some ways, that helps explain Tommy’s absence from a stage she once set. It’s been six years since her World Vision tape put a name to ‘fetish rap,’ and almost three since her self-titled debut honed in on exactly what that phrase entails. “I'll make a song kind of just for myself, and it'll be really helpful and therapeutic for me to just go through the process of making music, and that's really why I started making music,” she explains. “It wasn't for anyone else.”
“That's honestly always been enough for me, but at the same time, I'm so blessed and so grateful for the attention that my music gets, and the fact that I can travel with it and have a career off of it,” she elaborates, explaining how fans have long clamoured for a new record under Instagram posts and unrelated tweets. “I feel blessed every day that I'm able to do that, so in that sense, I can't wait for this project to come out.”
It’s in the wake of that introspection that Goldilocks X emerges, the deep personal satisfaction squaring off against the need to relinquish control over the songs. If anything, it’s made for a stronger contention, as Tommy explains: “With this one I'm like, this is the concept, this is the title, these are the beats, this is the song. I'm very much more certain of myself and decisive. I think it's a project that I love, and I love to listen to.” That confidence is enshrined in the record’s curious title: “Goldilocks” for the ways in which it feels ‘just right,’ and “X” for the experimental edge she wields throughout. “It's almost like it had a little bit of everything that together all made sense,” she elaborates, “even though they don't even fit together in the typical sense… almost like the rules within chaos.”
Musically, the chaos comes at the open, with the A-side of Goldilocks X a parade of hard beats and barbed bars. The clanging peppermint is chased by the fuzzy chassis of Perth’s own FnZ on kamikaze, the irresistible dance of Ibiza mainstays The Martinez Brothers on a woman is a god, and the tinkering energy of longtime collaborator Charlie Heat on manifesto and wet, who also brings a slower side on mmm and wild child.
On a woman is a god - a brooding empowerment anthem - she celebrates the potential within every woman, the divine image sourced from her own spiritual convictions. “I really believe that we all have God in us, and I think that we have an energy that is all connected with each other,” she explains, sketching out an ether that comprises “energy that’s come before us and energy that will go on after us.” That solitary power underpins that independent creed, one where strength and conviction come from within, not without: “You're in love now with being you,” she calmly chants as the panning hook grows closer, “Well, you move so gracefully like glass / Yeah, your feet can really dance.”
“When we're here, we're here to experience and live our lives and manifest what we want, and then when we go, we go back to that energy, and we can come back again if we want,” says Tommy artfully. “I definitely believe in God… I don't really know where to slot it in, you know? I think that there's a higher power, but I think the higher power is also in us.”
As the record unfurls, Tommy shifts from braggadocious bars and self-sourced confidence to disarming introspection, the slow walk to a place of tender reflection a story in and of itself. “I'm very much that way, and even when I make music, it will swing really far into this space that's very 'that bitch trying to fuck you,' and then it’ll swing back into a very vulnerable, soft place,” she explains, accounting for what’s sometimes taken as theatrics. “My music is me in real life, active in my life and experiences, but it's also the struggle in me between those [extremes].”
In that sense, the sensitive back-end is not a look behind the curtain as much as a new lease on an old friend, taking a new perspective without pushing past a facade. “It's kind of hard because people often will think that one side of me isn't real, but it is,” she admits, her “sweetheart” side a counterpoint instead of some character or guise. Tommy’s sincerity breaks through on fuck u u know u can’t make me cry, pained vocals straining against the autotune as though struggling against the smooth edges: “wish you the best and I wish that you were dead.”
“It was a very quick writing process,” she says of the track, the record’s most acute moment of catharsis. “I think certain songs are like that for me, a woman is a god was like that,” she says, casting her mind back – “it took me like ten minutes,” she adds, “I was shaking when it happened.”
fuck u u know u can’t make me cry was less acute, but no less immediate, a song that flowed out fully-formed. “I was in the studio with Blake Slatkin, who made the beat. He started playing guitar, because I said 'Oh, I want to try to make a pop song,' even though it's very rock vibes, and he started playing, and we made something, and we looped it, and then it just came out of me.”
You can hear as much, Tommy’s raw lyrics recollections marred by sins, sleeplessness, and salted wounds. “I had played it for some people, and the feedback I got was, 'Oh, it feels like three different songs, nothing matches anything,' and I was like, 'That's amazing, that's the best feedback ever',” she tells me excitedly. “It's always interesting to me when something happens that sounds new. It sounds new for me, as an artist.”
That the new is exciting comes as no surprise – Tommy’s work, hailing first and foremost from a place of self-expression, is as much art as it is an emotional exorcism. Her intimate bond with these ideas, musical and otherwise, has become a flashpoint for disagreement and difficulty. “Recently I've tried working where I don't have creative control, and all it's taught me is that I never want to work that way again,” tells Tommy, a longtime advocate of unfettered artistry.
It’s no surprise that her music videos work so well as visual accompaniments – as the sole director, she’s firmly in control of her musical image. “I know what I want, and in life you kind of just have to take charge sometimes,” she explains, zeroing in on the peace of mind it affords. “I'd rather put in all that work and sit back and have the music videos the way I like them. It's not easy, but it is actually easier than living with something that doesn't feel true to yourself as an artist.”
“I just fucking love Chris Burden,” she gushes, the Trans-Fixed reference in peppermint's video proof of her solitary vision. “I love really shocking conceptual art, I like it to make sense and have no frills. I took a nod to Chris Burden – he had crucified himself to the front of a Volkswagen Beetle, but he actually did it, like he actually crucified himself,” she shares, awe coming across in spades. Tommy’s is a less violent homage, repurposed for luxe hip-hop glamour, a fact she’s quick to point out herself: “When I'm making a music video, it's almost like a different version of art, and because of that, I like to just flip things.”
Tommy seizes that control, spotlighting art references and plunging emotional depths even as Goldilocks X marks a final hurdle. “It's technically my last album with this label, and there's that pressure to make an album,” she candidly admits. “Maybe I made an album because I lowkey had to, but on the flip side, I make music if I have to or not.” What was once novel has become a very part of being Tommy Genesis: inescapable, habitual, and often therapeutic. In the moments between records, she’s hardly slowing down. “I have a whole other album that I like, a completely different world, that's just sitting in my notes,” she says nonchalantly, “maybe one day I'll put that out.”
In the meantime, Tommy seems happy to soak up her rebirth – the release, the response, and the tour she’s long been plotting on. Hands firm on the wheel, more in control than ever before, Tommy takes Goldilocks X as the first step toward a glimmering future. “Having the power to literally do anything I want, from the smallest idea to the biggest idea,” she says without hesitation, “being able to work with like the artists I love, the brands I love, being able to travel the world, having a very open-ended feeling of never knowing what I do tomorrow, but knowing that I'll be making the most iconic shit of my life.”
“I just want it to only get better.”