TOMMY GEN­E­SIS.

The Cana­dian “fetish rap­per” on own­ing her sex­u­al­ity, be­ing in con­trol of her artistry, and why hip-hop doesn’t em­brace the LGBTQ com­mu­nity.

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The Cana­dian per­former and self-de­scribed “fetish rap­per” on own­ing her sex­u­al­ity, be­ing in con­trol of her artistry, and why hiphop doesn’t em­brace the LGBTQ com­mu­nity.

“I have a hard time talk­ing about my­self to be hon­est, be­cause I know what your pre­con­ceived no­tions of me are go­ing to be,” Tommy Gen­e­sis tells us as she preps for her pho­to­shoot. “I’m not try­ing to have a poster of me up in a church. I’m def­i­nitely proud of who I am, and I’m proud of how I iden­tify.”

The self-de­scribed “fetish rap­per” - who earned ac­claim with her mix­tape, World Vi­sion - is gear­ing up to re­lease her self-ti­tled de­but al­bum in Oc­to­ber, which will in­clude rap-bops such as 100 Bad, Lucky and sex jam Play Wit It. Un­like other artists in their de­but era (or at all), Tommy is in­cred­i­bly self-aware. She’s own­ing her sex­u­al­ity and rap­ping about what­ever the fuck she wants to rap about, be­cause it’s her art and no one else’s.

We sat down with the Cana­dian artist and dis­cussed ho­mo­pho­bia in hip-hop, be­ing in con­trol of her artistry, and how she doesn’t con­form to gen­der norms.

You de­scribe your mu­sic as “fetish rap”. How did that come about?

A lot of peo­ple were mak­ing up their own words for me, and I coined it. I make fetish rap! I’m not mak­ing mu­sic to fit in, I’m just mak­ing mu­sic I like and mu­sic that re­flects who I am. It will never be about chang­ing my iden­tity for any­one, and that goes down to ev­ery­thing I do. The rea­son I di­rect and edit my videos, come up with the con­cepts for my al­bum art, my sin­gle art, and I’m re­ally in­volved in the pro­duc­tion, is be­cause as a woman, if you don’t take a stand for who you are, some­one else de­cides who you are. And it’s re­ally easy to get put in their box of who you are, and I think it’s im­por­tant to do it for ev­ery woman, and boys who are work­ing through their own iden­tity and sex­u­al­ity, to show that you can do it your own way, and you don’t have to con­form.

You’ve got a lot of con­trol with your artistry. Is this some­thing you’ve had to fight for?

Yeah. Not so much with the songs, I have free­dom with that, but def­i­nitely with mak­ing my videos. The 100 Bad video I al­ready shot once, and I had to reshoot it be­cause it’s so im­por­tant that it comes across from my per­spec­tive. I’m hyper aware of th­ese things, be­cause I have to deal with it ev­ery day. When you pull up to a shoot, and peo­ple think you’re just an­other pretty face and they can tell you what to do, you have to set a prece­dent to be like, ‘I’m not go­ing to be who you want me to be, I’m gonna be who I am’. At the bot­tom of ev­ery­thing, in your heart and mind, you ac­tu­ally do know who you are. You can be happy for some­one else, but what ac­tu­ally makes you happy when you’re alone and no one’s telling you to watch that movie, no one’s telling you to lis­ten to that song, you know what I mean? What are those things that ac­tu­ally make you happy? For me, it’s hard to even do in­ter­views be­cause peo­ple ask me, “What mu­sic do you like? What in­spires you?” For me, it’s just more about try­ing to be the most gen­uine, raw ver­sion of my­self in hopes that it’ll help any­one who can re­late to me to be that way too.

You com­pletely own your sex­u­al­ity and wom­an­hood in your videos. Of­ten, women in the me­dia are slut-shamed for this. Have you ex­pe­ri­enced this yet?

Yeah, they hate you un­til they love you. You can only do wrong un­til you do good. I don’t re­ally take any of that per­son­ally, be­cause I know once you go out naked in a bath­tub, you’re gonna get peo­ple say­ing, ‘Oh she’s just pretty’ or ‘She’s us­ing sex­u­al­ity as a gim­mick in her mu­sic’. I’m a very sex­ual per­son and I al­ways have been. I come from a back­ground of punk mu­sic and I might shock you just be­cause of where I come from. It’s not be­cause I’m sit­ting down be­ing like, ‘What’s the most shock­ing thing I can do? Let me shock you’. The fact that I made you un­com­fort­able is a com­pli­ment. It’s funny that the minute you do some­thing like that, peo­ple think you’re a slut which im­plies that you have sex with a lot of peo­ple, which is hi­lar­i­ous for me and any­one who ac­tu­ally knows me. I am the most monog­a­mous per­son. D’An­gelo’s mu­sic video for Un­ti­tled [How Does It Feel] is of­ten re­garded as one of the great­est videos of all time. Yet, if a woman did that... Right? I think that it’s im­por­tant – es­pe­cially for young girls – for the con­cept of sex­u­al­ity to not be taboo. It’s im­por­tant for them to know that it’s a nat­u­ral and beau­ti­ful thing. For me, I grew up in a re­ally shel­tered sit­u­a­tion, so of course that’s gonna cre­ate the most re­bel­lious kid. I just wish I knew then it isn’t taboo, it’s beau­ti­ful, and there’s so many cul­tures that em­brace it. Our me­dia and our so­ci­ety uses it as a tool to con­di­tion us and keep us in cer­tain ideas of what it should be, and it’s re­ally hard on young women and men grow­ing up. The mo­ment you stop car­ing what other peo­ple think, you can ac­tu­ally har­ness it. That goes with any­thing. You should al­ways try and be a good per­son, ob­vi­ously. I be­lieve in choos­ing love over hate.

Rap and hip-hop as a whole doesn’t re­ally em­brace the LGBTQ com­mu­nity. Why do you think this is?

There’s a stigma, and the minute you say you’re LGBTQ, they’ll put you in a box. I just think that the way me­dia has per­ceived our com­mu­nity, out­side of our com­mu­nity, is just very stereo­typ­i­cal. It hap­pens ev­ery­where. It hap­pens in TV shows. It hap­pens in movies. They’re so ready to put us in this one spe­cific stereo­type, and the re­al­ity is, is that we’re di­verse and we’re dif­fer­ent types of peo­ple. You can’t just put us in this one per­son­al­ity, know what I mean? This one idea of who you think we are. Rap and hip-hop, I think it’s open­ing up, but I think that’s why. They have a pre-con­ceived no­tion of who we are and how we are, and that just doesn’t fit into what should be a rap­per.

As a bi­sex­ual woman of colour, have you faced a lot of dis­crim­i­na­tion in your life?

It’s one of those things where it’s how peo­ple are in­tro­duced to me. I don’t walk around stat­ing that I’m bi­sex­ual, so if some­one’s read an ar­ti­cle or lis­tened

to a song, or meets me on the street, I’m just me. You shouldn’t have to know what I be­lieve in. If you meet me and we have a con­ver­sa­tion, I’m not gonna tell you all th­ese things I be­lieve in, or my sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, so if you know who I am, it’s be­cause you’ve read it or lis­tened to my mu­sic. I un­der­stand my mu­sic isn’t for ev­ery­one, and I un­der­stand the way I’m por­trayed to ev­ery­one. I’m not try­ing to have a poster of me up in a church. I’m not go­ing into those places to wreak havoc. I’m def­i­nitely proud of who I am, and I’m proud of how I iden­tify, but it shouldn’t mat­ter, and ev­ery­one should be treated with the same amount of re­spect.

You men­tioned about how you’re por­trayed. What would you like peo­ple to ac­tu­ally know about you?

I have a hard time talk­ing about my­self to be hon­est. Just be­cause I know what your pre­con­ceived no­tions of me are go­ing to be. Of course, I’m al­ways sur­prised by re­ally spe­cial peo­ple who aren’t judge­men­tal or what­ever. I think peo­ple just as­sume I’m an In­sta­gram model. Or, peo­ple know I’m a freak and they’re just like, ‘She’s that freak! She’s that crazy freak! Did you see her video?’ It’s re­ally funny for me. I also have this re­ally mas­cu­line and fem­i­nine en­ergy and I don’t just iden­tify with one. There’s two parts of me. I’ll dress up re­ally girly, but I also won’t. Even when I was re­ally lit­tle, I cut all my hair off and peo­ple thought I was a boy. Ev­ery­one would ask my sis­ter, “Who’s your brother?” And I went through re­ally girly phases, where all I would wear were skirts. For me, it’s like role play. Dress up. It’s part of who I am. If I’m sad, I’ll put on a wig and do my make up, and get dressed for no one but me. It’s some­thing I love to do when I’m alone. I think it trans­lates into me as an artist too, be­cause I def­i­nitely have th­ese two sides, and it’s re­ally hard for peo­ple to un­der­stand. They’re like, ‘You don’t know who you are be­cause you’re one way, then you’re an­other’. It’s like, ‘No, they’re both me, and I do know who I am’.

Now more than ever it feels like the gen­der bi­nary is be­ing chal­lenged...

Yeah, ex­actly. Gen­der for the me­dia is very black and white. You’re ei­ther mas­cu­line or fem­i­nine, you’re ei­ther happy or you’re a cunt. You ei­ther care or you don’t. No, ac­tu­ally, how I iden­tify is mas­cu­line and fem­i­nine. I’m not con­fused about my gen­der and I’m not con­fused about my iden­tity. Peo­ple can’t un­der­stand that.

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