sat 13/04/2024

Album: Genesis Owusu - Smiling With No Teeth | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Genesis Owusu - Smiling With No Teeth

Album: Genesis Owusu - Smiling With No Teeth

Debut by new talent from Australia is a charismatic and multiform ride

Smiling with gold teeth

The debut album by Australian-Ghanaian artist Genesis Owusu is so musically restless it’s exhilarating. What’s clear is this guy doesn’t want to be placed in a box, marked hip hop or anything else.

Over a wild variety of music, he adopts multiple vocal styles, reminding of beatbox genius Reggie Watts (most especially his recent Wajatta project with John Tejada). The album cover encapsulates the cinematic, occasionally garish persona that comes across during the 15 tracks. What’s clear is that Genesis Owusu is no wall flower.

Running through Smiling With No Teeth is the theme of a “black dog”. It appears again and again, from the shouty, electro-noisy opening cut onwards, apparently symbolic of oppression, both mental and racial, as well as a persona that’s a response to both. The single “Whip Cracker” makes things explicit with its bullishly stated “We don’t fuck with neo-Nazi spew”, and much more in that vein, over a 4/4 beat that eventually mutates into something akin to an early Chili Peppers groove.

Elsewhere, though, are sweet pop songs, such as the sing-along title track, which has something of Sly and the Family Stone about it, or “Looking Back”, a showtune slowie, not a million miles from Harry Nilsson. The comparisons keep coming but Owusu has his own sound, the album is of-a-piece, simply composed with a tight band, electronically burnished, retro organ often to the fore, held together by the frontman, whether he’s singing in soulful falsetto, chatting deep’n’sexy like Isaac Hayes, or staccato rapping.

Other names scribbled in my notes include Childish Gambino, Lou Reed, Funkadelic, Outkast, Gang of Four, Maxim-out-of-The Prodigy, Bill Withers, Rick Springfield (“Drown” is pure Eighties pop-rock!), The Last Poets, and Gnarls Barkley. Smiling With No Teeth brings to mind an overdose of references, but the musical magpie-ism is more Prince than pastiche. Whether he’s spitting wisdom over bongos, raging to post-punk funk, or sweetly singing “off the shore I saw a bream” on “A Song About Fishing”, Genesis Owusu, if he can gain a foothold outside his native Australia, is going to be hard to ignore.

Below: Watch the video for "The Other Black Dog" by Genesis Owusu

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