“My reality is sweet, better than your dreams”, purrs the unparalleled rapper Tommy Cash on Pussy Money Weed. Cash’s lyrics hit the nail on the head, he does live in a dream world, in the cult of the celebrity. He’s been a model for Marine Serre, drips in Vetements and shares a close friendship and multiple collaborations with Rick Owens. Even Pusha T and Dave Chappelle took a selfie with a jar of Tommy Cash’s semen displayed in Rick Owen’s Paris home. Evidently, Tommy runs in a league of his own, as a taste maker who effortlessly flips art, fashion, and what it means to be a rapstar on its head.
Interview tak­en from METAL Magazine issue 47. Adapted for the online version. Order your copy here.
Irony is his calling card. He turned up to Paris fashion week in almost no clothing, proving style is a lot more than just what you wear. He produces music that is disruptive, overwhelming (try Dostoyevsky) and sometimes offensive. But regardless of this, we can’t help but fall head over heels for him in this interview that reveals a softer, empathetic, and loving side of the absurdist genius.

Born in Estonia, the texture of his accent is as unique as his visual world that puts a Slavic lilt into Western tropes creating a fascinating picture of what was once familiar. Who knew a medieval battle could be a rap video? Or that a star might say I Quit, and work as a delivery driver for Uber Eats in his Lamborghini. Tommy is an absolute surrealist. His strangeness makes us question what we once thought was normal. Billed in the past as Kayne East or the post-Soviet response to Ye, we think he’s much more than that. He is the third way, produced by the dissolve between good and bad taste, high and low culture. We relish it like honey and marmite.

Listening to his music or sweating in the crowd at his shows reminds us Tommy is no mirror or counterpart to an existing scene in America. He is on his own hype. But most importantly, what Tommy does is make us feel that we too could be like him. The rapper winches the rockstar lifestyle into reach. He’s approachable, charming and vulnerable. He doesn’t always like main characters. When he jokes about having grown up “with the Gummo lifestyle”, he repackages his disadvantaged childhood, as an Estonian-Russian and therefore an underprivileged member in Talin’s society, into a film. That openness has buoyed his success in Europe. As well as trampling boundaries between East and West into something we can all identify with. Whether you’re in a deprived part of post- Soviet Tallin, Estonia’s capital, or a hurricane ravaged neighbourhood of fictionalised Xenia, Ohio you still get the same grimy drug abuse and cat- burning boredom. Tommy Cash is an individual, but he stands for something universal, transcendence. He goes beyond the usual limits.
Nonetheless, Tallinn is still home, and Tommy’s main pad is a converted factory there.This perhaps adds to his chosen classification as an underdog. There is grit and dirt in his art that feels like a delicious layer of sweat after a workout. His radical approach to sound design is a dog straining at a lead dragging culture forward. After all, without the puritanical celebrity counterpoints where would exist the rebels pulling out the stake holding them back? In Tommy’s song he takes a bastardisation of the Facebook founder’s name as Zuccenberg and makes seemingly no lyrical reference to the man himself rapping “Zuc my Zuccenberg”. Reassuringly every lyric is something Zuckerberg would never say. It displaces the word from the Facebook or Meta founder and refashions his surname into a synonym for penis. It’s two fingers up to censorship. Tommy names exactly what’s on his mind. In a listening session the words often whistle past then hit you later. It’s unexpected, it’s fresh, there is almost no boundary he won’t cross. It construes a new sense of reason.

We met at the stylish La Perle bar in Paris, apparently “haunted by the presence of John Galliano” according to one Google review. It’s still a chic fashion hang-out spot and appears to be also known for bad service. Tommy was a vision of beauty, dressed in blue and white checked boxer shorts, a simple Italian-looking white vest, a heavy longline matrix leather jacket and bespoke new rock boots sprayed silver by For Bitches. He drank a flat white and smoked rollies made with longs. The rapper’s flowing locks inspired by Rick Owens were gold in the dull Parisian drizzle and so was his glowing conversation.
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Metal face piece GREGORY KARA.
Thank you for coming to meet us. Let’s start with the basics, this edition of METAL is about Value. Your artist’s name is Tommy Cash, what does cash or money mean to you?
No value. It’s totally bullshit. That was the point; it’s less a matter of materialism, it’s like anti-money.
Okay, what is the craziest thing that you’ve done for money though?
I went down on guys a couple times. Okay, no, not really. I never went down on no-one; I’ve never sold my ass like I say in some songs. (Sighs) Oh, but the craziest thing? I have reached the point in my career now that nothing jumps out in my mind as crazy, or that feels like I sold out for. I’ve done more for less money. I mean, I give out more. Money is not the priority all the time. I want to make people happy. I want to put out something new and fresh in the world. If the budget cost is way higher than it should be, we still do it. I’m like that.
What would you never do for money?
I don’t know if the moment might come one day, but I maybe wouldn’t do something political? I’m not into that political shit. I just don’t vibe with that at all. I’m not even near. When you go to sleep, you have dreams. I’m in that world.
You’re in the dream world.
I’m in the dream world like Freddy Krueger. I’m there. I am the boogey man.
You’re the skeleton in the closet?
Yes, absolutely. I’m the cookie monster. I’m all this, not that.
Over the years, how has your perception of things changed? Do you still value the same things you cared about before?
No, but still, generally, I care. The DNA of my work is the same. But, as we grow, our brain evolves, and now I understand more how things work. I think I put more thought into doing stuff than before. My soul is still in it. But, in this world, everyone is overthinking, you need to play their game. You need to also think. I am still a great artist, but in this jungle of information, I need to be smarter. Now, I’m a little bit more strategic in some ways. But it’s still the same structure, the same little boy is still here, I’m just smarter.
Are you less impulsive?
Impulsive? As in, I do as I feel? No, I am going back to being impulsive right now. Recently I haven’t been posting so much, I’ve been off, because of coronavirus and the Ukraine situation, everyone is so fragile. I just got back. Also, thinking about it, I should still act how I feel, right?
My job is to be an artist, whatever is going on in the world (shouted over a siren). I’m tired of hearing it’s Hanukkah or it’s Christmas, you shouldn’t do that. You shouldn’t do that because you are this and they are that. They will get offended or whatever. Everyone has stacks and stacks and stacks of borders and walls. But as artists we should do as we feel. That is where the magic comes from, not overthinking stuff, and just stripping it all off.
Do you think that your sense of humour means you’re happy to talk about anything? Except politics. You’re not frightened. People can easily get cancelled for saying the wrong thing, but that’s not something you’re worried about.
I’m so far into my career, like what the fuck. I should get cancelled for so many things on my page right now! It’s massive.
It’s very tongue in cheek what you do.
Yes, but I’m not actually offending anyone. There’s like messages here and there.
But are you frightened of cancel culture?
I’m not at all. I think I’m far from them, they’re far from me. My fans, people that love the things we do, they understand it. That’s all we need. Only this group of people.
Obviously, I love your work. But I wonder whether the things that could be understood as offensive are satirical. When you’re making a joke about something, it’s part of the character, it’s not really what you think. Tommy Cash and you are separate.
Absolutely, yes. It’s to make you think and feel. It’s not intended to make offense. If you get offended, I’m sure you get offended by many things in the world. Of course, I hate all the bad, like racism, when guys act bad with women and all this abortion bullshit. War. I fucking I hate all this shit. Normal people when they read about me or go a little bit deeper, they understand that I’m a very sweet dude. [Tommy later appeared as a baby with sunburn makeup saying choice].
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Full look VETEMENTS, necklace VITALY.
Yes. We were also very happy shooting with you. We love the images of you wearing the Vetements money jacket.
Oh, I love that. Legendary.
It’s really cool. But is it somewhat ironic? You think? For example, this type of fashion is it like a critique of consumerist society that only seeks fast profit? Or is it just openly funny?
No, it’s definitely a critique. I think they’re soon going to run out of space to go, because they've gone so far already. Next will be just like homeless fashion, paper bags on their heads. It might eventually go so bogus that someone will say stop. And concretely this latest collection, there was cryptocurrency shit. But they already had the money printed things before. But, it’s that it’s like what you said.
What do you think about the most emblematic pieces of the brands like the DHL shirt or like Balenciaga with the IKEA bag? How does something like that become a must have? Why are we obsessed with this kind of thing?
It’s so easy, and it’s so genius. Something we never thought was fashion can be fashion as a normcore aesthetic. Whose ethos is we take from the slums or from the lower classes, and we add a big price tag and we sell it. People are like haha, that’s funny. I’ll buy it. Look, you wear it for $10, mine is like $1500 but it’s the same thing, right? Besides, it’s this big fashion house that has a history of over a hundred years. I don’t know how it’s going but it seems pretty all right. This is the irony, right? It’s old. People throw away money. There’s so many layers. It’s very ironic.
When you talk about tastes taken from different classes, it makes me think of new money. Some say that this idea came from ancient Greece, others say the West when it colonised America. It’s an insult historically made by people who are old money, who have generational wealth. New money are the people who have just got rich. They come from the streets and then suddenly, they have loads of money. Supposedly old money say new money have bad taste. They’re flashy and show off. How do you think things have changed since then? Have they? What point are we at now?
I know. I think it’s the same. That’s a pretty cool point of view. I never thought about it like this. Like old money, new money. So, you’re saying the brands make it for a younger generation?
I guess there’s still a young generation within old money, but maybe they’re buying different things.
Yes, of course. They probably buy suits. Old or new money, if you have bad taste, you have bad taste. I think also, the hype will get them. Hype will get you eventually...
No matter who you are?
Maybe well, if your brain is solid, then you’re solid.
Do you think that it’s cool to brag about wealth?
I mean, no, I think it’s not classy. Well, me personally, I’m very classy. In this, I think it’s not cool. I know it’s a very rapper thing to do. I think you can if you want, people can do what the fuck they want. But, it’s a materialistic world. And sadly, it’s like Mr. Beast, the most popular YouTuber. It’s all about wealth. It’s all about like giving out money. You know, like doing videos like, “Oh, I’ll give out a Lamborghini to whoever farts the most.” and that’s the joke. And everyone, they fucking click it. Because he’s a person just throwing away money. And people are freaking out, going crazy.
Okay. I don’t know that YouTuber. Is it charitable?
Kind of, yeah. But the videos are still all about money. To say it’s charitable, that’s nice. But, it’s of this world, right? For some people, life is all about sex, money, whatever. Rock and roll.
It’s kind of the inevitable.
Kind of.
I know that you love bread. But what wins Estonian rye bread or French baguettes?
I love bread. French croissants, baguettes, white bread. It’s so cheap. Rye bread is rare. It’s grilled a little bit, maybe served warm then it’s nice, but it’s hard to eat it every day. For me, it’s quite dense, but very good. Healthy they say.
This is true. Your bread slippers for Margiela talk about living on the breadline. The packet noodles were genius as well. Are there other foods that you’d like to create fashion items out of?
Yes, I definitely want to, there’re a couple in the works that I can’t talk about much. But it’s a different outlet. I will only say it’s the reverse outlet.
Can you tell me more? How about designing household goods? Like a mop, a pan scrubber...
No, I just said my idea. Household goods, that’s very cool. That’s very supreme. I love that approach.
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Full look ROBERT WUN.
And what is going on with your own brand at the moment? Are you only doing collaborations now? Do you have any plans?
I will do collabs until everyone drops dead from collabs and can’t take it anymore. I think it’s the funniest right now. Everyone is obsessed with collabs. But I’m trying to have a threesome collab and a foursome because that’s the next thing. I don’t want a two brand collab, I want a five brand collab. That would just be so stupid. And it’s so hard to do. That’s the next logical step. I have many projects in the works. They’re pretty far along and coming out soon.
In October-time, November? Can you tell us what it is?
I think it comes out maybe in October. Yeah, it’s with one huge sports brand, I will tell that.
Like the big shoes you did for Adidas.
Yes, but it will be a very big collection. This will be thirteen pieces. They’re going to be a wide variety. This brand has never done stuff like this.
And you design it yourself?
Yes, of course. My design team is very small. It’s me and one person.
Do you do the drawings?
Yeah, we do it all together, with all the ideas. My friend Dima, he draws for me. And we do it all together. It’s all in-house, like a household, very tight and near. Like a little spaghetti restaurant that all the families work in.
Is Dima Estonian as well?
Yeah, actually he is Belarusian, he’s Estonian Belarusian.
Why do you think that we’re seeing so many threadbare sweaters with holes in on the catwalk right now? Hoodies full of holes, jeans with grass stains on at Gucci? What do you think is happening?
I don’t know, people dig it.
That’s it, just pure aesthetics.
I have no explanation for that. I mean, it’s still going on. It’s crazy. It’s been like five years still like I don’t see this thing slowing down you know. More holes, more and more distressed and destroyed. It is the same as the joke about DHL and everything. You buy new jeans, and they look so destroyed. It’s the idea of having a piece that is like already destroyed.
Like the Balenciaga converses.
Yes. It’s just like this. Also there is this irony of already buying old items. It’s interesting.
Recently at Palais de Tokyo, you appeared at Rick Owens’ show as an Adam Eve hybrid to watch the catwalk.
Yes. Someone said Jesus too, I don’t know who.
It was very cool, someone else said you resembled Lady Godiva. The Anglo-Saxon legend, a lady who rode on horseback completely naked with really long hair covering herself.
I dig this, I’ve seen this lady. Maybe it’s Lady Godiva, I love horses.
And you’re on a motorbike, which is very French.
I was on a motorbike. Riding through all Paris. It was very French. Except I was butt fucking naked.
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Except for some tiny trousers.
It was pretty nerve wracking with a crazy Italian driving me, Gio. Gio is really funny and a very good designer. He has this brand called For Bitches, where he does little bags, like Barbie bags, and big ones, as well as shoes. He did the ones I’m wearing and he’s a good friend. It was very crazy. But we arrived and totally smashed it. I gave flowers to Rick. Later Rick said, they saw me as I came in, and everyone was talking about me, like, the star of the evening. It was great.
Do you think that these kind of celebrity stunts are getting more extreme? Or has there always been a fascination with nudity and the perverse?
Nudity? I think nudity is very my thing. But, who else but me did anything during fashion week? And check out the thing that I’m going to do tonight at Marine Serre when I attend as a guest. And did you see what I did on the Amiri front row? Let me tell you, the answer is, this is where all our anti fashion people stand. It’s so antifashion what we’re doing, there’s no brands attached. Everyone arrives at fashion shows head to toe in branded looks, and it’s all the same. Sometimes, I’m a bit anti-everything. At Amiri’s show I was there just working out [Sexy and I know it plays from Tommy’s phone as the video runs], with fucking NBA multimillionaires on my right, Lil Durk walking, Kodak Black, it’s so stupid. It’s refreshing, fashion shows are missing this. The golden days of Lady Gaga, I miss this edge. That is what frees us when we ride naked motorbikes to Rick Owens or what we’re going to do tonight. Also, at Walter Van Beirendonck I wore a full suit of armour.
That must have been boiling.
It was actually a full night’s suit. It’s so refreshing and so freeing, you know, it’s so Tommy. We love it. And I’m sure Demna approves. Demna said somewhere up there in the top penthouse, looking over us, seeing all of Paris, he approves this shit.
Is he the one who decides what’s good and what’s bad?
No, I think he knows what’s where he’s going.
Then, who decides what’s good and what’s evil or is it the individual?
I think it comes down to sympathy. If you’re not hurting anyone or messing up someone’s show it’s not you. But no one decides, for everyone it is different.
There are so many definitions of good taste across languages, cultures. If there is no standard, does that mean it doesn’t exist?
There is no standard then it does not exist... I feel I have no standard. I’m borderline this and that, but I feel like to be able to achieve or to reach places you’ve never been you have to be free enough to dabble between two lines. I think if you concentrate on having only good taste, you tend to be boring. I think a very big percentage of people are like that, with good taste, but they’re like everyone else. And maybe the point is to be you. That’s the point of the game and to be not afraid.
When you say the game do you mean life or work?
Life is the game and work is just a part of it. My game is my life and my life is my game. It’s very separate, but not at the same time.
Moving on to the music game. Often your lyrics are quite crude. For example, “I’m about to hit that cootchie, play you like Tamagotchi” in Turn it up, does clean or gentle language bore you? What excites you?
It excites me, come on. Cardi B and Meghan thee Stallion’s Wet Ass Pussy was a big hit. We are kind of the barbarians of this thing. I think it’s nice to pronounce genitalia, you know? Again, sex, love and rock and roll, right what fucking else? Like I’m sorry I wish we were at a time when I could sing like this...
I agree. You can, you already do. Wait, you’re going show us an example of something.
[Plays Nat King Cole] This is this is what turns me on. This pureness, this soul, this is so you know so beautiful.
On a record player, at home on a Sunday, doing nothing.
Well, I love this. But we’re not there. We’re where people are fucking turning up on fart sounds on TikTok. We’re not there.
The era of romance has died.
I’m very romantic, in my real life, my private life. But generally, in art, I think it’s very hard to achieve nowadays.
If you release something similar, I would like that.
I will try.
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Full look AVELLANO, shoes EYTYS.
Baby Shock your spoof of Baby Shark is the 2022 rebirth of Crazy Frog, in my opinion. Why is Eurotrash so good?
Eurotrash? Eurotrash is so good? I don’t know. I think because we hated it for some so many years. Time is running so fast and we’re just going through all the trash we can find. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Right? It’s just finding fresh elements and fresh sounds. That’s where it goes.
I felt like it’s quite freeing.
That’s the right word it’s fucking freeing.
It’s horrible, but I love it.
That’s the right word.
Your music is often brutal, extreme, loud with trap and grunge influences with dark industrial undercurrents. Have you always been part of that scene?
No, it was down to what I love and what feels right in the moment. I always liked Massive Attack and everything else. It’s loud, but soft at the same time it’s beautiful too. My music is not so beautiful.
It’s got its own beauty.
It makes me feel. It’s like all the time, there’s got to be something that makes me move inside. It’s like that. 
What does the type of music we enjoy say about who we are?
Right now? I think nothing. I think we enjoy so much music different music it’s hard to categorise. The thing is, if we went back 15 years you could maybe tell. I don’t talk with scene people, all my friends they listen to different people. Right now, I don’t know any more only hip-hop heads, or only rock heads, emos. It’s so mashed up. All the music genres are mashed up, there’s emo-trap, pop-rock. It’s so mixed up, it’s hard to tell. Unless there’s a girl who is really into oldies and doesn’t like really rap, that’s a shower, that’s something, that’s interesting. Maybe she has an old soul. But if she’s like I love Juice Wrld and listen to this and that. But, I also listen to this and that, and that’s my job to be all around and hear what comes out. But you could never tell that I listen to Nat King Cole.
No, thank you for sharing that with us. The visuals at your shows are crazy fun, absurdly grotesque, raw. At Sonar, in Barcelona you showed us images of tourists like Martin Parr style. Being a tourist doesn’t feel chic, but when you’re on tour, you must feel like you want to be a tourist.
Thank you. Yes, (laughs) a lot. I do this a lot when I’m not touring. I was there in Barcelona when Sonar happened, and I was there as a tourist for four or five days. I did super touristy stuff, like I took a bike and went to the beach and really enjoyed myself.
Do you find more inspiration in the vulgar, like a sunburnt tourist or the sublime like the Madonna and Child.
The trashy ones, of course. Yesterday here in Paris I also watched Blue Velvet in an old cinema. In the beginning it’s very suburban, David Lynch shot weird looking people, big glasses, acting weirdly. As I went out the cinema, I started to see those people. Because, right now as we sit in this Paris Street there is only fashion stuff, everyone is dressed up. Those normal people are the ones that stand out. They are looking fresh. At the last Balenciaga show I saw Frank Ocean just in his blue jeans, his old adidas tracksuit and random yankee hat and he looked the best. Everyone was head to toe in Balenciaga blah blah blah and they all looked the same. It is normality that wins.
I love that you cast people with disabilities in Pussy Money Weed, it reminds me that everyone is beautiful. Can you talk to me more about that?
They are my heroes; they are my super people. I have had to answer this question many times, but when I was a small boy there was this guy named Buster, he was like my big brother, my friend that I played basketball with, in the hood when I was growing up. There was a trend for Russian boys to jump on trains and ride them illegally. You jump on the old ones with the wagons full or coal or oil.
There was a history of that in America, and a good book On the Road.
Anyway, he was doing that, he fell and the train went over his legs. Basically, he had this fake leg and was walking different. Also, there was a boy who sniffed plasticine, who also had extra learning needs. All these people surrounded me and I am friends with them. There was an orphanage also. This everyday life mixed into my normal world. I was kind of living the Gummo life. It’s very part of me and they were very normal, very cool people and it kind of stayed. People with disabilities or if there is something different with them and they are still living their life. We are here with a hundred channels lazing around, they show us...
That for me is like wow, I love them.
From something deep to something superficial. Platform crocs or businessman brogues?
How about we mix them up, hot hot.
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Sleeveless jacket and leather gloves RICK OWENS.
Mini skirt or Nun robe?
Mini skirt.
When you spoke to NME years ago you talked about a Ping Pong show being very awe-inspiring. Are pornstars your biggest muses?
(Laughs) I don’t watch porn
At your gig in Barcelona there were videos of a lot of porn stars.
It’s based on the bare skin aesthetic that win a lot of brains [and attention]. There are more layers to it than the aesthetic choice of the visual.
Have you seen this painting in Paris yet, L’Origine du Monde it’s great because it’s so old but it still shocks a lot of people. Let me show you a picture.
Oh that is so good, I want to fucking buy it one day, it’s so cool.
The Origin of the World makes us think about life and death. How would you feel if you could live forever?
So true, I wouldn’t be motivated to get anything done.
Your intense visual world is a reference to Tarantino but also Katy Perry.
Of course, shout out to Katy Perry.
Does this make you feel more alive like an electric shock?
Yes, definitely. I love the approach, not many movies feel like an individual piece of art in a museum.
Does your work feel like an individual piece of art?
It’s separate. If you take a screenshot out of every video each is like a different era. You can’t find another video like it. Little Molly, Pussy Money Weed, Sur’, Racked, they are all stupid, from different times, genres, ideologies, with the same signature. They are from the same person, yes, but they are each unique and I love them. Someone said I need to do something in black and white, but I already have Sdubid. Then we made Racked which is medieval. So, it goes back in time. Now, the next logical step is to do a video from further back, from before Christ. Then we go to back or to normal time.
Or to the future?
No, I can’t do that. I think that is too plain. There are too many things in the world trying to associate themselves with the future. There has been so much done already with cyberpunk, it’s everywhere.
Let’s talk about a quote of yours about gatekeeping, “Academia is a bunch of bitches, we are trying to break it.” I think your NFTs, your past exhibition proves that you already are an artist. How has social media changed what we value?
Academia is a bunch of bitches who are afraid, but we do also still need academia to kind of measure what’s good and what’s not. I think without these so-called old heads, we would become fucking lost. Already, there has been so much lost in this NFT thing. The crash showed us that we fucked it up badly, and that’s stupid us buying ugly pictures of apes for 500 000. Pushing this and making loads of NFTs that cost nothing, hyping up. We need the academy. Right now, we are so free. If you have clout, you can say what’s good and what’s not to a following, but some people get too big for their own good and acquire too much power. Even if they don’t want to impact taste, they do. She or he doesn’t have knowledge on everything. In old times, there would be the cream of the crop in the art world in the Renaissance or whenever and they decided what is good. I think a little part of me, the old head inside me, says we need a bit of guidance. We live in a jungle on the Internet and people get lost, they don’t know what’s good or where to go. I think it will go back, I don’t know how, but at some point maybe there will be people on the internet taking care of us and our brains, because it’s impossible to use your own little head to find out what’s good and what’s not.
Yes, I agree. I try and fact check stuff on newspapers I trust and like.
That’s the beginning.
But I think implementing it would be challenging, but I guess we’ve got to be hopeful. Finally, in these trying times we need escapism, is high energy music and jumping around the best thing for it?
That’s one of the parts, yes.
What else should we try?
I mean, logging off, loving, making love, just disappearing in conversation, enjoying walks, nature. Trying to pet some animals, maybe ride a horse. You know, recharging, resting, not going crazy over stupid stuff. Just being nice to each-other.
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Full look EMEERRE.