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New Album Review

Genesis Owusu: Smiling With No Teeth

A man with gold teeth and facial bandages smiles at the camera
Album Cover For Genesis Owusu’s “Smiling With No Teeth”

Genesis Owusu is a Ghanaian-Australian rapper, singer, and songwriter. I can’t really tell you that much about his life or cultural context, because for all intents and purposes he just apparated into existence three months ago. His label is a persona non grata online, this is his debut album, and his music gives him very few contemporaries. All we really have to work with here are two interviews from The Guardian and Anthony Fantano, the content of his album, and the rather impressive word of mouth campaign surrounding it.

Owusu’s music is, in equal measure, hip-hop, pop, and rock. He described himself to the Guardian as “Prince, if he were a rapper in 2020s Australia,” which is a grand claim, though not an altogether inappropriate one. He has Prince’s combination of chameleonic versatility and instantly recognizable personality. Despite jumping from hardcore hip-hop to gospel to post-punk in the span of 10 minutes, his album has a stylistic cohesion exemplified by the sheer force of personality that is Genesis Owusu.

Beyond his overall aesthetic, Owusu is also an extremely talented vocalist, in a way that feels almost out of place given that the current ethos of hip-hop focuses more on production skills than raw vocal abilities. Owusu has both, and this means he can bend his voice to fit the mood of the track. He can also sing his own hooks in a different register than he raps, allowing him to get through the entire album with a total of one feature.

However, the most engaging element of the music is the lyrical skill demonstrated by Owusu throughout the album. The album is set up to have recurring themes, lyrical motifs, and an ambitious sense of musical arc. This is not to say the album is repetitive, in fact, Owusu covers a long list of subjects, and on the occasions where he does repeat, he approaches the topic from an entirely new angle. Themes of depression, cultural isolation, and biblical references are mainstays, and the album has a few explicitly political tracks that hit hard as well.

Take a listen to this album, especially if you don’t catch that many hip-hop records. The music is accessible without sacrificing depth, and it has some surprisingly uplifting cuts towards the end. Personally, it’s one of my favorite albums of the year so far.

By Delusional Melodrama

DJ and occasional contributor to the WKNC blog. Specializes in all music that sounds like a lawnmower swallowing a rock.