With the release of his debut, 2017’s Cardrive EP, the rapidly rising Ghanian-born, Canberra, Australia-based, 20-something artist Genesis Owusu — born Kofi Owusu-Anash — quickly established himself as a perpetually restless, genre-blurring chameleon with a defiant, difficult to pigeonhole sound an approach and an ability to conjure powerful and deeply personal storytelling in diverse forms. Cardrive eventually garnered an ARIA Award nomination for Best R&B/Soul Release and praise from Sir Elton John (!), NME, i-D, mixmag and others. And adding to a growing profile, Owusu has opened for the likes of Dead Prez, Col3trane, Sampa The Great, Cosmo’s Midnight, Noname, Animé, Ruel and others in Australia.
Last year, the rising Ghanian-born, Aussie-based artist released a handful of highly-celebrated singles including the fiery mosh-pit friendly banger “Whip Cracker” and the ARIA Award-nominated smash hit “Don’t Need You,” which quickly became the #1 most played song on triple J radio — and since then has received airplay in the UK on both BBC Radio 1 and BBC Radio 6 and here in the States on KCRW, KUTX, The Current and Alt98.
“Whip Cracker” and “Don’t Need You” will be on Owusu-Anash’s forthcoming 15 song Andrew Klippel-produced full-length debut Smiling With No Teeth. Slated for a March 5, 2021 release through House Anxiety/Ourness, Smiling With No Teeth reportedly sees the rising Ghanian-born, Aussie artist further honing and developing his genre-confounding sound and approach while charting the epic peaks and troughs of mental health struggles and his experience as a black man in a very white world that hates him — often for no particular reason. Much of the album’s material is centered round raw punk rock-like and hip-hop-like energy while routinely veering into industrial, punk, funk, trip hop and pop, sometimes within the same song. And as a result. the album’s brash and defiant material is seemingly dedicated to those who boldly refused to be boxed into stereotypes or cultural norms, and those who fit in everywhere and nowhere.
“Smiling With No Teeth is performing what the world wants to see, even if you don’t have the capacity to do so honestly,” Owusu explains in press notes. “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.
Late last year, I wrote about “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,” Smiling With No Teeth’s fourth and latest single is a brooding and seamless synthesis of old school soul, strutting and swaggering G Funk and Massive Attack-like trip hop. Centered around shimmering and atmospheric synths, a sinuous bass line, stuttering boom bap beats and squiggling blasts of guitar, “Gold Chains” finds the rising Ghanian-born, Canberra-based artist adopting a sort of 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.”
Directed by frequent visual collaborator Riley Blakeway, the recently released video for “Gold Chains” alternates between luxurious and glossy, 70s inspired glam, glitter and commodities and a behind-the-scenes look at desperation and loneliness. The cars, gold, money and fame are empty and phony — and ironically only add to the protagonist’s increasing dissatisfaction with everything, including himself. “The video is about the hollowness of a lot of the things we hold as idols,” the rising Ghanian-born, Canberra-based artist told The Fader. “The shiny things that get made to look like goals from the outside looking in, but in reality won’t be the source of happiness that we’d hoped for. The gold chains become shackles.”