Eastern European hip-hop star Tommy Cash (aka Kanye East) is also a concept artist

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Born Tomas Tammemets in November 1991, the Estonian rapper and singer Tommy Cash, aka Kanye East, is known for spitting rhymes that deliver eerie portrayals of post-Soviet life. His music combines cloud rap, hard dance and Baltic rhythms with references to high and low culture (“Gopnik in the streets, Dostoyevsky in the sheets,” he sings in the track. Dostoyevsky), including many artistic references. Her viral video for the song Winaloto was inspired by a trip to the Louvre, featuring Cash surrounded by dancers who contort into pyramids, landscapes, musical instruments, even a throne.

Like his music, Cash himself is not so easy to define. He goes effortlessly from collaborations with Diploma and noise of boys to genre-defying, fluid live performances (think Peaches meets IC3PEAK meets Wu Tsang) at design street clothing inspired by the Adidas bootleg sold in the mega bazaars of the 1990s in the Baltic region. Following his second album, “¥€$”, which features industry majors like Charli XCX and Caroline Polachek, he is now working with brands such as Margiela House and Rick Owens.

Half Slavic gopnik, half haute couture muse, Cash has forged a career focusing not on one discipline, but on an orgy of them, developing hybrid music, fashion and installation projects. . But above all, he wants you to know that he is an artist.

“Whether it’s art, fashion, music or design, everything I do is inspired by the Tommy Cash way of being,” he told me last spring when he wore a kilt with a gray tank top atop the Catalonia Barcelona Plaza hotel in Spain. “I don’t see the difference between creating an Ikea sofa and using my music to touch the world. It’s a fucking cluster, yeah, but it works.

The Tommy Cash way of being, for what it’s worth, is a bit like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. He is just as likely to make his next appearance at a Khrushchevka (a spooky Soviet building) as he attends a fashion show. Earlier this month, Cash showed up sporting a paparazzi-style camera at Balenciaga’s Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2023 presentation, which saw his Western moniker walk down a mud-covered runway designed by the artist Santiago Sierra.

Tommy Cash at the Balenciaga Spring/Summer 2023 show in Paris. Courtesy of Yulia Shadrinski.

Sipping water a few hours before taking the stage at Sónar, Cash told me about the trajectory of his life and career, and how he grew up in the slums of Estonia with a “mix of Estonian ancestry , Russian and Ukrainian”. shaped its identity. Above all, he believes that when it comes to making art for a wide audience, it’s important to stay true to one’s roots – and he seems determined to shine the hoods of Eastern Europe and the -of the.

The hip-hop star has a lot in common with his Western counterpart: “When I grew up, I dropped out of school because everyone sucked,” he said. “I realized early on that society’s expectations were far from mine.

“I never cared what people thought of me, whether it was my appearance or my performance,” he continued. “So I just took that vibe and ran.”

Tommy Cash with friend and collaborator Rick Owens at the Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2023 menswear show.  Courtesy of Yulia Shadrinski.

Tommy Cash with friend and collaborator Rick Owens at the Paris Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2023 menswear show. Courtesy of Yulia Shadrinski.

Indeed: In June, he showed up to the Rick Owens Spring/Summer 2023 Paris Men’s Fashion Week show completely naked, save for thigh-length hair covering his genitals. Previously, Cash and Owens collaborated on a series of projects, from the 2018 runway MONA LISE at the 2019 exhibition “The pure and the damnedat the Kumu Art Museum in Estonia, where Cash exhibited, among other things, his own sperm.

Today, he presents a solo exhibition at International Paris with Temnikova and Kasela (until October 23), a Tallinn gallery that also represents artists like Katja Novitskova, Kaarel Kurismaa, Nik Kosmasand Kris Lemsalu.

“Tommy’s work contributes to one of the most valuable cultural discourses of our time,” his gallery owner, Olga Temnikova, told Artnet News. “If you look at the situation in Ukraine today, the breakdown in communication, the linguistic and ethnic lines that divide the conflict, it transcends those worlds in a way that feels fresh and poignant.”

A view of Tommy Cash's installation at Paris Internationale, 2022. Courtesy of Temnikova & Kasela.

A view of Tommy Cash’s installation at Paris Internationale, 2022. Courtesy of Temnikova & Kasela.

The stand is set up as a dark and eerie tribute to a popular Russian cartoon, Cheburashka, a cute furry animal popular in many post-Soviet countries. Large and small versions of Cash’s “Nukerashka” sculpture are on display (selling between €2,500, or $2,440, and €45,000, or $43,980), depicting a smiling, totem-like Cheburashka, who has nuclear clouds pouring out of his ears. As Europe is on the brink of nuclear war, the sculpture, placed against a map of the world, looks powerfully ominous.

‘Nukerashka’ hoodies are also on offer for €200 each, with 25% of the proceeds going to the Ukrainian cultural centeran NGO that supports displaced people close to the front line in Ukraine.

“Tommy has reached hundreds of millions of people around the world with his distinctive visual style, absurd imagery and depraved sense of humor,” Temnikova said. “He speaks the language of a pan-Slavic hip-hop folk hero.”

Is it art? We do not care. It’s Cash’s world, we all live in it.

Tommy Cash presents a new body of works of art on the stand of Temnikova & Kasela Gallery at International Paris until October 23, 2022.

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