If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of years, you’d know that I’ve managed to spill copious amounts of virtual ink covering the acclaimed, multi-ARIA Award-winning Ghanian-born, Canberra-based JOVM mainstay Genesis Owusu.
The acclaimed Aussie JOVM mainstay’s sophomore album STRUGGLER was released earlier this year through OURNESS/AWAL. Where Smiling With No Teeth thematically uncovered one Black man’s battles against — and with — depression and racism, STRUGGLER is reportedly an exploration of the chaos and absurdity of life, our ability to endure and how to get through it all. The album’s material is deeply inspired by a close friend hitting the brink and coming through the other side, along with questions of life and beauty that he found himself contemplating during readings of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis.
Recorded between the States and Australia, STRUGGLER‘s producers traverse musical genres — and includes Jason Evigan, who has worked with RUFUS DU SOL and SZA; Mikey Freedom Hart, who worked on Jon Batiste’s 2021 Grammy of the Year Album, We Are; Sol Was, who worked on Beyoncé’s Renaissance; and Owusu’s long-time collaborators and producers Andrew Klippel and Dave Hammer.
Additionally, Owusu has collaborated with acclaimed Kiwi-based Lisa Reihana on the album’s complete visual identity. Reihana’s work has been showcased in elite institutions throughout the States and the EU, including the Venice Biennale for her critically-acclaimed video installation, In Pursuit of Venus [Infected]. Her work spans across a diverse of media — including film, costume and body adornment and video installation, and as a result she has earned a reputation as a world-renowned artist and producer, who engages in thought-provoking dialogues around the concept of culture.
I’ve managed to write about three of he album’s singles:
- “Leaving the Light,” an urgent ripper that begins with a spine-crawling run of bass notes before quickly morphing into breakneck sFreedom of Choice-era DEVO-like anthem paired with the JOVM’s swaggering, larger-than-life presence and his unerring knack for rousing, shout along worthy choruses. “Leaving the Light” is a cathartic song about survival and perseverance that feels necessary in a mad, mad, mad world.
- The Sol Was-produced “Tied Up!,” a swaggering and funky bop built around a propulsive stomp, swirling and warped funk guitar and wobbling bass synths paired with the JOVM mainstay’s forceful delivery. The song speaks of the struggle of getting by in an uneasy, insane world and desperately holding onto yourself as best as you can in the process.
- “Stay Blessed” is a breakneck, mosh pit friendly anthem built around buzzing, angular guitar attack, rapid-fire beats paired with the JOVM mainstay’s punchy delivery. Much like the previously released singles, “Stay Blessed” speaks of survival and desperate resilience in a mad, mad, mad world that’s out to destroy you.
Coming on the heels of his recent ARIA Award wins for Album of the Year, Best Independent Release and Best Hip-Hop/Rap Release for STRUGGLER — and just before his headlining December Australia tour, the JOVM mainstay closes out the year with a surprise release single “SURVIVOR,” which will be included as an additional track to his acclaimed sophomore album.
Built around a hook-driven, percussive and glitchy industrial meets trap music-inspired production “SURVIVOR” sees Owusu’s rapid-fire verses dart and ducking like a boxer deftly avoiding his opponent’s punches. Referencing Kafka’s Metamorphosis, the song’s narrator discusses the struggle to have hope in a desperate, fucked up world; the struggle to have confidence and self-worth in a world that constantly tells you that you ain’t shit and that you’ll never be worth shit; the endless sense of exhaustion and rage that you don’t quite know what to do with — and with the sort of unvarnished and uneasy honesty that Owusu has been known for. “THE STORY NEVER ENDS, THE ROACH KEEPS ROACHING. THROUGH SPACE, TIME, FIRE & BRIMSTONE,” Owusu says of the new single.
Directed by Lisa Reihana, the accompanying video for “SURVIVOR” is set in a post-apocalyptic world of fire and industrialism and features a regal Owusu leading and surrounded by a collection of choreographed dancers with a militaristic precision.