Through opting to remain active in music; Tommy Cash surpassed the legacy of Salem during his transition from witch house into Post-Soviet rap. The latter incarnation of Tommy Cash has achieved millions of plays on his video for ‘Winaloto’ which features high quality art direction and an unmistakable peach palette. The video quickly garnered intrigue from internet kids desperately trying to identify the source of the zef-esque track. One of very few Estonian rappers to visibly surface in pop culture, Tommy Cash identifies strongly with ‘the other’. He openly suggests that he rebrand as ‘Kanye East’. With his fluid approach to fashion and a provocative tone underlying all aspects of his creativity—it is undeniable that Tommy Cash is on a whole new level.
How does the reality of Eastern Europe differ to what is portrayed in mainstream media?
Everyone in fashion just wears stuff that bums here have been wearing since the ’90s, so you could say we have been ahead of our time? But all jokes aside, I don’t actually think it has made it to mainstream, but if we talk about what is happening in the fashion world then I guess they are just kind of taking bits and pieces of it. It is really beyond tracksuits, squatting, and aesthetics. The Eastern European reality is way more ratchet than people portray it to be.
When you were growing up, who were you inspired by artistically?
I was most inspired by this junkie I saw in the front lawn of my apartment building. I think he thought he was swimming. He inspired me to escape. Escaping from the actuality of the world you live in is a form of art in itself and learning that made me artistic.
How do your surroundings influence your art?
There is this kebab place I go to —it’s amazing. Other than that, there is really not much there. [My surroundings] inspire me to create something that is not like it and to create something just way better than that.
You started dancing first, right? How did that lead you to music?
I wanted to say more than I was saying with my body.
My friend and I used to DJ at clubs and exclusively play witch house tracks because we were obsessed. I’ve even got a Salem tattoo. You played at the legendary Russian witch house parties, can you tell me more about those?
They are sick, they are private, and I will never tell what actually goes down there.
I can definitely hear the witch house references in your earlier songs, but your last few tracks have had a sound of their own. How do you think your music has evolved over the years?
I just go with what I like in the moment. I could never know what I will like next, I don’t really know how to analyse the evolvement.
I read once that you really connected with Kanye West’s album Graduation. Does that still apply? How did that album influence your own sound?
There is a special place in my heart for every Kanye album, but sonically I wouldn’t draw parallels. I even wanted to rename myself to Kanye East this one time, but my girlfriend wouldn’t let me, but what do you think?
I’m down! Is there anyone else you look to for inspiration artistically? Are there any artists you would like to collaborate with?
I am very inspired by Arca and I actually just went to the studio with a few guys who I really look up to. I can’t say who they are but I hope you will hear it soon.
Are you involved in the production behind your tracks at all?
And do you work with the same producers or does it differ between tracks?
I have worked with a wide range of producers and they differ from track to track.
Who was behind the video for ‘Winaloto’? Did you expect it to be received as well as it was?
It was me and my girlfriend. We didn’t think about how it would be received, we just really enjoyed doing it.
Tell me the story behind your new track ‘Surf’. Where did you write the track and what inspired it?
I wrote it in the winter. It was -27 degrees [fahrenheit] outside and I was on a grunge bender. I think I grew a beard in that period and I was listening to Marilyn Manson, Alice in Chains, and Nirvana a lot.
Your videos are extremely high production. How have videos helped to bring your music to life?
Well thank you, I am extremely high while I’m doing it. I guess music is cereal and videos are milk, you put them together and boom!
Are you an independent artist? What do you like best about releasing your own music?
Yes. The best thing is deciding when and what and how to release my stuff. No-one can fuck with my vision.
‘Upfront’ is a series of interviews with interesting people. Read more here.