With the release of his debut EP, 2017’s Cardrive, the acclaimed and rising Ghanian-born, Canberra-based, artist Genesis Owusu — born Kofi Owusu-Anash — quickly established a reputation for being a restless, genre-blurring chameleon with an ability to conjure powerful and deeply personal storytelling.
Cardrive EP garnered an ARIA Award nomination for Best R&B/Soul Release and praise from Sir Elton John (!), NME, i-D, mixmag and others. Owusu supported the EP by opening for Dead Prez, Col3trane, Sampa The Great, Cosmo’s Midnight, Noname, Animé, Ruel and others in Australia.
Owusu-Anash’s critically applauded full-length debut 2021’s Smiling With No Teeth as the acclaimed Ghanian-Aussie artist explains is essentially about “performing what the world wants to see, even if you don’t have the capacity to do so honestly. Slathering honey on your demons to make them palatable to people, who only want to know if you’re okay, if the answer is yes. That’s the idea, turned into beautiful, youthful, ugly, timeless and strange music.”
Each of the album’s 15 tracks can trace their origins back to studio jam sessions with a backing band that features Kirin J. Callinan, Touch Sensitive’s Michael DiFrancesco, World Champion‘s Julian Sudek and the album’s producer Andrew Klippel.
In the lead-up to the album’s release, I wound up writing about three of Smiling With No Teeth‘s singles:
- “The Other Black Dog,” a mind-bending production that meshed alternative hip-hop, industrial clang, clatter, rattle and stomp, off-kilter stuttering beats and wobbling synth arpeggios that was roomy enough for Owusu-Anash’s breathless, rapid-fire and dense flow. Managing to balance club friendliness with sweaty, mosh pit energy, the song is a full-throttled nosedive into madness that reminds me of the drug and booze fueled chaos of ODB, and the menace of DMX.
- “Gold Chains,” a brooding yet seamless synthesis of old school soul, G Funk and Massive Attack-like trip hop centered around shimmering and atmospheric synths, stuttering boom bap beats, squiggling blasts of guitar and the rising Ghanian-born, Canberra-based artist’s Mos Def/Yasiin Bey-like delivery, alternating between spitting dense and dexterous bars and crooning with an achingly tender falsetto. “‘Gold Chains’ got me thinking about the flaws of being in a profession where, more and more, you have to be the product, rather than just the provider of the product, and public misconceptions about how luxurious that is,” Owusu-Anash explains in press notes. “Lyrically, it set the tone for the rest of the album.”
- “Same Thing,” a jolting and uneasy future funk banger centered around shimmering synth arpeggios, skittering beats, bursts of Nile Rodgers-like guitar, a propulsive bass line and infectious hook serving as a silky bed for Owusu’s alternating dexterous and densely worded bars and soulful crooning. But at its core is an unflinchingly honest — and necessary — view of mental health struggles.
Last July, the Ghanian-Aussie JOVM mainstay released the Missing Molars EP, a five-track accompaniment to his full-length debut. Recorded during the Smiling With No Teeth sessions, the Missing Molars EP material didn’t make the album — but further continue the soul-baring narrative of the album. “Missing Molars is an extension of Smiling With No Teeth,” Owusu-Anash explains. “A small collection of tracks from the SWNT sessions that take the already established world-building groundwork of the album, and expand that universe into new and unexplored places. These are all tracks that I felt were special in their own right and needed to be shared. This is music without boundaries.”
Adding to a breakthrough 2021, Owusu-Anash went on several sold-out tours, made his Stateside late night TV debut, and went on a successful run of dates across both the States and Europe. Smiling With No Teeth landed on several Best of Lists, including being named triple j’s Album of the Year. The album also earned four ARIA Awards, including Album of the Year, Hip Hop Release, Artwork and Independent Release. And the album was named triple j’s Album of the Year.
Last year Owusu-Anash was extremely busy: He spent much of the year on the road, making stops across the global festival circuit with sets at Lollapalooza and Osheaga and more. He made his headlining stateside debut last year, included a stop at Bowery Ballroom, which I covered for the good folks at Musicology.xyz. The JOVM mainstay also opened for a series of internationally renowned artists including Khraungbin, Thundercat, and Tame Impala,
Owusu-Anash also released the woozily anthemic, stand-alone, Andrew Klippel, Dann Hume and Jono Ma-co-produced, “GTFO.” Beginning with a looped warbling choir, wobbling bass serving as an ethereal and eerie bed for Owusu-Anash’s rapid fire flow, “GFTO” is built around in a alternating quiet-loud-quiet song structure that features a shout-along-worthy chorus paired with a marching beat and explosive cymbal crashes keeping time, and an analog instrumentation-driven hook. While further cementing his reputation for being an artist constantly experimenting with his sound and approach, the song finds the listener being thrown into the JOVM mainstay’s innermost thoughts and opinions with an unvarnished and unsettling honesty.
The JOVM mainstay closed out 2022 with the Dann Hume and Andrew Klippel co-produced “Get Inspired,” a seamless synthesis of New Wave, EDM, punk and hip-hop centered around angular and propulsive bass, siren-like guitars and the JOVM’s punchy lyrical jabs and uppercuts, Continuing Owusu-Anash’s reputation for boldly defying and mashing genres, there’s even a falsetto delivered breakdown roughly halfway through, before the song quickly gets back to its relentless motorik-like groove. Adding to a growing international profile, a snippet of the song is used in an ad campaign for Apple Fitness+.
“Get Inspired” much like his previously released work is rooted in deeply personal experience — mainly embittering professional, personal and spiritual struggles and figuring out a way through, past or around them to achieve your dreams. If you’re a creative, the song will hit a chord with you.
Directed by Babekuhl and Chris Yee, the accompanying video — the JOVM mainstay’s first of the year — features Owusu-Anash performing the song in front of a green screen, which allows for some mind-bending computer-generated effects.