Tommy Cash may sound like a relative of a certain country singer but the rapper couldn’t be further away from country music. The self-declared “most famous Estonian in the world” could be considered many things; rapper, art provocateur, popstar born of a nightmarish fever dream; but there is one thing you can say for definite: nobody does what Tommy Cash is doing. He is part of an array of Eastern European artists dealing with ridiculous and extreme, but in an absorbing way.
On this point Tommy Cash has some previous form. In summer 2016 the music video for his song Winaloto was called “the most unsettling music video of all time” by NME. The video, which Cash directed himself, is a forest of half naked people, but most unsettlingly of all is the image of Cash’s face superimposed between a woman’s legs, with his braided mohawk doubling as pubic hair. A more recent hit “Pussy Money Weed” sees amputee dancers twerking with blades in place of their prosthetics. His blend of Europop, trap, and traditional rap, all delivered with his distinctive Slavic accent gives his music a uniqueness that is a perfect antidote to the chart fodder found all over the airwaves on this side of the continent.
Cash’s product, as he calls his music and videos is an art form like no other; hip-hop viewed through the lens of a conceptual artist from the post-Soviet era. Interestingly, considering he grew up in such a politically turbulent era, he keeps his music devoid of any political influence. Cash strongly believes music should be escapism. “I want to take people out of their sh*tty lives. Out of their sh*tty nine to fives. Out of their sh*tty relationships, sh*tty weather, to this magical world where you can disappear for a couple of hours and get inspired, like in a movie. That’s how I approach my stuff, so I don’t see the point of going there. I don’t know about politics, it’s a deadly circle where it just goes round and round and nothing changes.”
The 27 year old artist believes that art should be clear and obvious, having previously stated his distaste for art that “tries too hard to be deep”. This is particularly clear in his video for the song Surf. While brainstorming ideas, he decided to undertake a period of sexual abstinence. As weeks became months, he began to see sex everywhere: in the way someone moved their hands or drank their coffee; in the rumbling vibrations of a passing train; in the shape of a cooling tower at a nuclear power station. The resulting video is a series of innocent everyday scenes and objects, seen through the eyes of the sex-starved Cash, whose testicles have swollen to the size of cantaloupes. “I hate confusing art; I just want people to understand exactly what I mean,” When you watch the video, this all makes perfect sense as you watch a giant hand pull a condom over a skyscraper.
The Estonian has such a surrealist approach to his videos, and it is so so fresh in a genre that is often quite bland and linear. His view on art really makes you wonder if Salvador Dali had started listening to Eminem as a 15 year old, would we have another Tommy Cash?
Tommy Cash is one of a kind, and music desperately needs more innovators like him.
Image Credit: NME