Politically and culturally driven, funky, proud, and multi-layered – Genesis Owusu’s debut album represents a new blueprint of what hip-hop can be. Full of un-hip-hop influences as it swirls between genres as different as jazz, rap, and Ghanaian highlife, the record creeps into your consciousness like a smoke bomb with the intro to “On The Move!”, and takes sharp turns between the neighbourhoods of digital-age jazz and hip-hop boom (“Centrefold”), groove-laden territory (“The Other Black Dog”), and post-gospel soul (“Smiling With No Teeth”).
Catch Genesis Owusu live and you’ll understand the showman savant that is 23-year-old Kofi Owusu-Ansah, who immigrated to Canberra from Ghana as a two-year-old. But listen to this debut offering with your eyes closed, and you’ll catch a glimpse into a world that many without his platform understand all too well. “Cuz somehow my actions represent a whole race, it’s hard to move different when your face is our face,” Owusu-Ansah raps on the potent cultural lamentation “I Don’t See Colour!”.
Owusu-Ansah collides his realities with a pride that spills from each of the 15 tracks. He wears the outsider label with strength, he refuses to assimilate; for assimilation is a brutal colonial subjugation that disregards his own culture.
The album was conceived at artist Julian Sudek’s tiny home studio in Bondi after two week-long jam sessions with Michael di Francesco, a.k.a. Touch Sensitive, World Champion’s Julian Sudek, OURNESS label founder Andrew Klippel, and Kirin J Callinan (who guests on “Drown”). It’s for this very reason that Smiling With No Teeth is an affirmation of musical and cultural diversity. Owusu-Ansah has curated a fluid line-up of players and songs to overturn boundaries.
Genesis Owusu’s Smiling with No Teeth is out now via OURNESS and House Anxiety.
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