Oakland born rapper, producer, writer, and filmmaker TMG FRE$H wears many hats. You can find him cooking up a new track in the studio one day, and working on his latest film the next. But what remains constant across all his various artistic channels is his keen creative vision and thoughtful ethos. I talked to TMG FRE$H in his home studio in LA earlier this week to hear about the making of his debut album ‘Margiela Language’, which is out today via TMG Records. He dove into his love for Jay-Z, his favorite designers, and how he’s honed in that sharp creative vision on his debut album.
I’m here with rapper/producer TMG FRE$H. Welcome!
Hey, what’s goin on.
I love your backdrop; it looks very futuristic
Thank you, I’m in my home studio. That’s my vibe with the neons and all that.
So where are you right now?
I’m at home in LA!
You’re originally from the Bay Area though, right?
Yea, I grew up in Oakland/Berkeley
So you grew up right in the heart of the Bay Area rap scene. Did that influence you a lot?
I like the Bay Area Rap, like in high school I was listening to a lot of The Jacka. I like it, but I would say stylistically, I wouldn’t say it’s a big influence on my current sound. It definitely influenced me culturally though. I was in high school during the Hyphy movement and that was also right when the Warriors had their first good season in like forever, so the Bay Area was super lit. I think that was definitely a dope influence.
Who would you say your biggest influences are then?
I’d say Jay-Z is my biggest influence. There’s a Jay-Z line for every emotion I’ve gone through, which I think is super powerful, to be able to see your life in someone else’s work like that. He’s also able to move through the music and business world to create an empire for himself, which to me, that’s goals right there.
Your debut album ‘Margiela Language’ is out this Friday, you must be so excited!
Super excited. It feels like such a long time coming. It’s been a long road, and I feel like I finally crafted a sound, style, and story that feels like a complete body of work that speaks to who I am.
And what was the inspiration behind the album?
I’d say the biggest theme on the album is duality. Margiela is a high fashion brand, and you think of that as clean and fly and all that shit. But at the same time, there’s a flip side, where you always have to be wondering who’s really with you versus who’s around because of what they’re trying to get out of you. With more, comes more you gotta worry about. So on the project I really tried to create a good mix of songs that are fun and feel-good, but at the same time I have songs that touch on the painful elements and some of the things I’ve gone through. I really wanted to create something that showed both sides of that.
You bring up several high fashion brands on this album, you must be really into couture!
I like my designers, you know. I feel like the way you dress is a form of creative expression so I’m always trying to find cool and unique pieces.
Do you have a particularly coveted piece?
Right now one of my favorite brand is Fear of God, the shirt I’m wearing right now is from them. I like that it’s not overly flashy but it’s very cool and sharp.
So when did you first start getting into making music?
I first started making music a little over three years ago. Prior to that I’d been around music a lot and was working with artists on the business side. I was doing a lot of film work, and had written and directed my own short film, but knew I wanted to give music a try myself. I knew I was creative but wanted to try them in a different lane.
I made my first track at a producer friend of mine, Southside’s, house. I just called him and was like, can I try to make a song? I went over there and he had me work with his engineer. I think I recorded like three songs that day and none of them were that good, but he helped me learn how to structure a song so I wasn’t just randomly throwing stuff out there. He sat down and told me, you know, 8 bar hook, 12 bar verse, and all that, which helped me with the process of it.
About a week later we all went out to the club and I slipped the DJ something to play. Hearing my song in the club and turning up to it just gave me this feeling like, man this is dope, I want to keep doing this. I started recording all the time and slowly getting better. It’s been a journey of growing and finding my sound over this three year period.
I think that’s so interesting that you started as a filmmaker. You’re involved in all these different creative realms, but how do you think your creative process differs when filmmaking vs. making music?
When you are making music, it’s going directly from your thoughts to being laid down on the track. You can make a song over the course of one night. But when I’m making a film, I have to think of the idea, map out the story, and then write and revise the script, and then find a producer, and the actors and all that. It’s a whole big, long process, which is so different. Being an artist in general is a team game, but filmmaking especially. You really gotta have a lot of people putting in their time and energy versus in music, the making of the song is a bit more personal.
So if you had to give up film festivals or music festivals, which would you choose?
Well I’m doing everything in my power to make it so I don’t have to choose between them. As a music artist it’s very personal so the music you make has to be true to you whereas when you make films, you can create whatever magical land or story you want. You can jump into that fantasy world, or step into someone else’s story entirely. As an artist I really enjoy and see the value in both.
You collaborated with some major names like Jeremih and Sean Kingston on this album. What was working with them like?
It was dope! It’s always exciting when you’re new in something and there’s someone who you respect and is established who likes it too and wants to get in on it.
And what else are you looking forward to in 2021?
I would love to go on tour this year and perform at some festivals. I’m ready to be out of the house honestly. I’m ready to get on the road and share my music with people.
Well we hope we get to see you on stage soon. Thanks for being here TMG FRE$H, we’re so excited ‘Margiela Language’ is finally here!