How Nirvana, a group chat talking shit about men, and a friend with lowkey rapping abilities came to inspire the LA artist’s genre-blurring album
Vancouver raised, now Los Angeles-based Tommy Genesis continues to blur genre conformities – all while very much in a cocoon-phased evolution of her career. Serenading the moody, textured, often clamorous composite of trap on her self-titled Tommy Genesis, she began to craft her self-coined “fetish rap” in the process, satisfying a legion of grassroots audiences, embracing her sexuality and brand of quirk unapologetically, all while managing to revitalise trap’s underground.
Almost three years later, and Genesis is back in the spotlight, this time with an admittedly “rawer” sophomore LP, goldilocks x. Declaring that she’s “born again” on the project’s opener “peppermint”, her Scandinavian and, particularly, Tamil heritage refuse to be silenced here, as her identity beyond the theatrics remain a constant vantage point, alongside her now-entrenched festish rap canvas. Tugging on deep-house sonics – which takes some adjusting to, on first listen – Tommy Genesis in 2021 extends her pursuit of boundless musical palettes, challenging consumers’ expectations of both her ear and her compositions.
goldilocks x reflects Tommy’s growth as a writer, vocalist, and overall creator, and marks the rapper-singer out as a consistent purveyor of avant-garde, multifaceted offerings. Here, Tommy talks Dazed through the creation, and inspiration, behind each track.
Tommy Genesis: “peppermint” is actually a GTA (Good Times Ahead) beat. I made it and they were supposed to put it out, but for some reason it never came out, and then I just couldn’t let it go. GTA were so nice and gave it back, it was like I gave my child away and wanted it back.
For me, what really felt good about “peppermint” is the simplicity of the beat and the lyrics were a really easy way to say: ‘I’m coming’. It was really calling myself to wake up. I’m back because I’ve been here making music, but I also like to hibernate in the sense that if eyes aren’t on me, I’m so comfortable, but I also need to be back to have my music be heard and I think it was claiming that I’m the bitch that makes fetish rap… just claiming myself. All the shit that you want me to say that I haven’t said, I’m going to say on this project.
02. “KAMIKAZE FT. GANNA”
Tommy Genesis: I was at a house party in The Hills the Halloween before the pandemic with some of my friends, and my friend Ganna dropped us all home, we all got in the car – she’s such a sweetheart. She’s Russian. She puts on this Russian rap music and starts rapping along to it, she knows every word. I’m sitting there in the backseat and I lean forward and I’m like, ‘Ganna, you can rap!’ She’s like, ‘Na, what do you mean?’
I told her I was gonna put her on my album. She thought I was joking and some time went by, and then I hit her and sent her “kamikaze” with an open verse and told her to write a verse. The next day, she comes to the studio and I think it’s the first time she’s recorded, and she said she wanted to have her verse in Russian as it would be great for her audience. She comes and cuts her verse in one or two takes and everyone in the studio is like, ‘Wow, this is amazing’ and now she’s a rapper working on her EP. I’m on her EP too.
03. “A WOMAN IS A GOD”
Tommy Genesis: When I make (music), I make it for myself. Because I identify as a woman and I’ve been through experiences as a woman with men, even being bisexual, it doesn’t exempt me from having experiences with men in the same world as people who may identify differently may have. This song is very self-reflexive; I’m literally talking about two sides of myself. I’m this person now but before I was literally that girl snorting on the window sill.
I think people have this conception of me that I always had friends, like no – I’m literally an art school student. I don’t always know how to always enter into real, regular life. This is almost pulling from my insecurities – now you’re in love with being you. The ‘woman is a God’ (hook) is not a new concept, like you drive down LA there’s a billboard that says ‘a woman is a God is somewhere downtown LA’.
Tommy Genesis: I love working with Charlie Heat because he’s always like, ‘What do you wanna make?’ and I’m always like, ‘Make whatever the fuck you’re feeling’. He always says he likes working with me because I don’t tell him how to work and that feeling is mutual, he doesn’t tell me to do anything. We only got in the studio for a few days, but we ended up making like ten songs. I had nothing to do with this beat, he just went in, then he started hyping himself up, then we were all like, ‘This is crazy’.
Part of “manifesto” is talking about M.I.A., she’s the original blueprint in my mind. I’m part Tamil, so I grew up on her. It’s all my dad played. When you have someone representing your culture... like, we don’t have very many people in the rap world doing that, so I grew up obsessed – she’s my queen. To me, ‘power’ is a word she used a lot, so it’s kind of an ode to her, but also it’s about my heritage, my family, my lineage, and I kind of play with it.
Tommy Genesis: “wet” is a turn-up track that isn’t as deep as the songs before it. I really like the monotone flow to it. Sometimes I hate the sound of my own voice but the “wet” part just goes really well with the beat and the bridge is kind of like, “I’m back bitch, let’s go, let’s get it”. It’s another Charlie beat – we recorded it at his studio. With “wet” I kept calling out that the fans wanted another hit, well here it is...
Tommy Genesis: Charlie started making a beat and I remember telling him to stop and was like, ‘Don’t add anything else!’, and that was it. It was so simple and that’s why I liked it. I just started rapping – “mmm” is a freestyle. The tornado and falsetto bits are references to when you’re having sex and the noises… I’m just so dirty. I don’t have a big dick, but it’s metaphorical. I was having fun. It’s just this feeling of like, I’m not yours but you’re intrigued, and you’re not mine, but this is my song, and you’re gonna feel a bit of who I am.
I liked talking about myself in the third person too and fucking around but getting in there with certain metaphors. One of the last things I recorded was the ‘tell me what you want what you really, really, really want’ and then Charlie added bass and added the brass and I loved it. That’s kind of like how we play. I feel like it’s important for the album to drop at some points in energy, so you can breathe.”
Tommy Genesis: If there’s one track that’s easy for anyone to listen to, it's “wildchild”. But then the lyrics are like, ‘Did she really just say that?’ I really like the pre-hook, it’s weird. You don’t think it's weird until you relisten to it. I ended up keeping “wildchild” because on “mmm” you have a breather, but “wildchild” is like a soft pull. It’s a mainstream, simple sound and it stayed because it got enough love.
Tommy Genesis: This song is so funny because I was in the studio back in Canada, working with an engineer I really love in Vancouver. I loved the beat, I think it was called “lollipop” or something, but it really had an old-school vibe to it. I began playing it and freestyling and the beat started and I just said “men”... “fuck men”, and the engineer said it was fire. So I started searching (to see) if there was a track called “men” and there wasn’t and I thought that that was even crazier. Then I made a group chat with a few of my friends and asked them to tell me everything they hate about men. I kid you not, they sent me paragraphs – in three minutes, I just had so much to go to. Then I opened the phone and started reading, I’m just pulling words from the group chat. ‘Even when I cum I’m pretending,’... I’m reading that off of a group chat.
It’s not a personal attack on men. It’s pulled from loads of different people telling me about their experiences with men. The second verse was really important to me, because you know when people are in relationships and he’s not respecting them as they’re respecting him? It’s just an empowering message for anyone who is in a toxic situation to leave. There are really good men out there, but this is just how it came about.
Tommy Genesis: This song had a completely different beat. Something happened in the back end where I couldn’t use the production, and I said to Lil Rich that I really didn’t wanna lose this song because I loved the way I sounded on it. He made it and at first I had demo-itis, where I was like ‘something’s off’ but then I came back the next day and said ‘this is bananas’, and I loved it.
For me this was a flex about not being an average rapper. Just that idea of me being underground, but mainstream, like I’ve done it before you’ve done it. The lyrics don’t stop on this song, I say a lot. I really felt like just going there. It's me just playing with biblical metaphors and really just not stopping, I feel like I’m really rapping here.
Tommy Genesis: I was in Paris, and (producer) 2K invited me to his house. I’d worked with him before so I went over. So I’m an hour out of Paris in his basement and I’m sitting there and he’s really magic with recording, he’s kind of a genius. I’m sitting and I remember that the window was open. I was conscious of the noise being picked up on the mic, but he said it would be fine. Usually I stand when I record, but I was sitting next to the window, it was a really brisk day and the wind was blowing. I remember I was having a really bad day, I can’t remember why, but I was really emotional and (2K) started to make this beat and I wrote for a bit, and he looped it. At this point, it didn’t have the saxophone and I started pouring from my emotions.
I couldn’t get rid of “baby”, I always wanted to play it after I recorded it. A couple of days later and (2K) gets his friend to play the sax over it and he sends it over and I just remember thinking, ‘this feels so good’, it felt like a massage to my heart.
11. “FUCK U U KNOW U CAN’T MAKE ME CRY”
Tommy Genesis: So this song is out of a session I did with Blake Slatkin, the first and only session we’ve ever had. He said, ‘What are you feeling today?’ and he’s amazing because he’s one of those people who can play anything. We didn’t have to source from anywhere.
“It was a, ‘Fuck you, you can’t make me feel small because I’m not small’” – Tommy Genesis
I said I wanted to make a punk song, like I feel like this is my punk song on the record. I was listening to a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers that day, like you know when you get into that Nirvana mood? I was in that mood that day, like during the Uber I was playing a lot of that music. I just wanted to be weird and say whatever came to mind, I wanted to make a song for if I was born in that era. For me it was so natural, it was a, ‘Fuck you, you can’t make me feel small because I’m not small’.
Tommy Genesis: This song is another one that had a different beat, it got lost on a hard drive and I randomly had sent the guy who had executive produced my last project my vocals and acapellas. So he knew a producer named Andre Denim who played acoustic guitar and just kept it as an acoustic.
The lyrics for me give me a lonely feeling, like on a human-to-human level talking about love and saying that it’s like a hurricane, it comes in and twists everything up, that toxic kind of love. I wanted to take all of these emotions and really go there. It’s so simple lyrically, but I loved it.
Tommy Genesis’s goldilocks x is out today