Rapper Tommy Genesis Explains Leaning Into Pop For Upcoming Debut

ISSUE 22 2018 - PRESS PHOTO
Mikey Asanin
Tommy Genesis

Get to know Tommy Genesis as she makes her move towards pop-adjacent rap with her upcoming debut album, releasing November.

FROM: Vancouver

GOD'S PLAN: The MC, who prefers to keep her given name private, has spent the past few years on the outskirts of mainstream rap with lyrics about sex and gender identity. It’s a far cry from when she first started making music at 10, performing in a church group called God’s Girls. “You think I’m joking; it’s true,” she says. Her love of art led her to study sculpture and film at Emily Carr University, where she also played in punk and emo bands before joining experimental rap duo Moan.

FATHERLY GUIDANCE: Atlanta rapper Father discovered her early solo music on SoundCloud. He messaged Genesis, who was working at a local gallery at the time, which led to a collaboration -- the 2015 song “Vamp” -- and her signing with his DIY collective of rappers, singers and producers at Awful Records. She began work on 2015 mixtape World Vision, featuring standouts like “Shepherd” and “Angelina,” where she whisper-raps about religion and desire over electronic production.    

   

STARS ALIGN: In 2017, that mixtape led to performances at Made in America and Pitchfork Music Festival Paris, plus an opening spot on Dua Lipa’s 2018 tour. But it was with the self-directed video for “Tommy,” featuring Genesis writhing around nude in a bath, that she truly broke out, pulling in over 1.5 million YouTube views. Genesis now believes it pigeonholed her as a “sexual, horny rapper.” “It’s so frustrating to feel normal inside of myself and be portrayed in this freak-show way,” she says. “It makes me so angry. I am what I am.”

MAKING MOVES: Genesis, who signed to Downtown Records in 2017, plans to step outside rap with her eponymous studio debut, due later this fall. She describes the project as having “a duality,” -- a “weird mesh of rapping and singing” -- but it leans pop. (She collaborated with Charli XCX on the LP’s “100 Bad” remix.) “I wouldn’t say I’m a singer, it kind of just happened,” she says. “[Rapping and singing] can live together. It’s just in the moment of what you’re making.”

This article originally appeared in the Sept. 29 issue of Billboard.