RIYL: Azealia Banks, Princess Nokia, M.I.A
Caution: this music may not be suitable for you.
In fact, if sexually charged, experimental pop-rap freaks you out, it is most definitely not for you. If you love to be provoked, listen on, because Canadian rapper Tommy Genesis’ self-titled debut album (released 11/9/2018 via Downtown Records) is nothing short of an adrenaline rush dipped in unexpected vulnerability.
Listen: Tommy Genesis – Tommy Genesis
Critics often search for themes of duality in an artistic body of work. Sure enough, there does exist a juxtaposition in the album between Genesis’ sweet, angelic side and her darker, more brash side. The album artwork shows Genesis and her counterpart in what seems to be the moment before a kiss. So much duality is present in her own life that it is impossible to not acknowledge it: her open sexuality, her bi-racial heritage, her equally righteous sovereignty in both the music and fashion spaces.
But enough about the exploration of motifs, because Genesis’ album has no purposefully pointed message or overarching theme meant for dissection and analysis. Simply put, the album is a screenshot of her life and her own artistic statement on what life is like being Tommy. Both unruly and contemplative, this soundtrack to her life and can be bumped at a club or enjoyed on an introspective solo drive.
What is so special about this album is the way she maintains that edge, and also finds applaudable success in losing any sort of reputation as a shock-value-dependent artist. She clearly finds a way to embrace the judgmental misconceptions thrust upon her by those who do not understand her. Personal freedom and a “who the fuck cares” mantra ring true throughout its entirety.
For a while, Genesis seemed to be pigeonholed as a “sexual rapper,” and not with complete unfairness. Her aggressive style and lack of censor certainly zoom in on the rebellious listeners. She tells us exactly how she likes it in “Bad Boy” and “Play With It.” However, even with the sexual overtones present in songs like “Tommy” and “Daddy,” her authoritative flow over some chaotically trappy beats establishes her dominion over more than just sexual rap.
Embedded in the layers of vulgarity are moments of pop sensibility. Sprinkles of sincerity allow the listener to have their own experience while listening to the album, while feeling a sense of parallelism to the girl on the other side of the speaker. Reflective moments of self-love are implied in her confident lyricism. Even in a song like “Naughty,” which depicts her sweeter side, the honesty is complemented with cheekiness to make sure you know she’s no softie.
And that’s about how deep it goes. At a certain point, there is nothing left to critique about it because the rest simply needs to be experienced individually by each listener. It is blunt, to-the-point, and brushes off any unnecessary fluff. So many artists these days push the boundaries of genre to the point where the compliment “uncategorizable” does not do justice to Genesis’ artistry. She does not operate by any sort of rule book and creates music that is a phenomenon in and of itself.
It is an artistry that translates over to her visuals as well. The accompanying “God Is Wild” film, co-directed by and starring Genesis as the protagonist, is a masterpiece in its own right and reinforces her complexity. Supernatural, eerie and provocative, it can only serve as a precursor to what we can hope to expect from her God is Wild tour in 2019. See for yourself, but beware.
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