With the release of his debut EP, 2017’s Cardrive, the acclaimed and rising Ghanian-born, Canberra, Australia-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 Smiling With No Teeth was released last year. The album 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.
Owusu-Anash returns with the woozy and anthemic, Andrew Klippel, Dann Hume and Jono Ma-produced, “GTFO,” the first bit of new material since SWNT — and the album’s highly-anticipated follow up. 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.
Directed by Uncle Friendly (a.k.a Rhett Wade-Ferrell), the accompanying video for “GTFO” opens with the Ghanian-Aussie artist trapping a cockroach before kneeling in prayer before a candle-lit shrine as he recites the song’s original lines. But the cockroach escapes and catches Owusu-Anash’s attention. And the rest of the video sees the rising artist being driven insane as he tries to hunt down and kill the insect, wreaking havoc to his apartment before finally killing the bug with a cricket bat.
“There are many people like Roach. Strugglers, doing whatever they can to get through hell and high water,” Owusu-Anash explains. “Bankruptcy, depression, sickness; God himself can try to stand in the way, but a struggler has to keep struggling. And a Roach has to keep Roaching. Even when it’s told to GTFO.”