10 Questions With Genesis Owusu As He Releases His New Album ‘Struggler’

Genesis Owusu is in his own lane. Aside from his characteristic crimson skull strip and the futuristic sunglasses that sit permanently on his cheeks, the breakout star is carving his own space with a blend of classic punk rock, utopian future funk and anti R&B. After his 2021 debut album Smiling With No Teeth received global acclaim and four ARIA awards, the Ghanaian-born Aussie is back with a vengeance, releasing his second album, Struggler on August 18. 

The 11-part sonic safari focuses on how to get through the hardships Owusu highlighted in his first offering, including his personal battle with depression and racism. After SWNT catapulted him onto the world stage – he underwent a sold-out 22 date tour after its release – his present drop reflects this change of pace. Exploring the chaos and absurdity one smacks into after a rise as rapid as Owusu’s, the tracks also draw on the endurance that can be found within.

The first track, ‘Leaving the Light’ – released May 18 – brings the listener to attention with an ominously intense bassline, telling you to strap yourself in. What follows is a turbulent and urgent rhythm, overrun by frenzied lyricism jolting through lines like “Better run, there’s a God and he’s coming for me” to “I can never stop my path, despite the panic.” Simply put, it’s not an easygoing melody for your morning coffee or lazy Sunday.   

This inaugural statement also introduces fans to the ‘roach’ – an enduring character that acts as a looming and repressive force. The following track – named after the artist’s sinister antagonist – embodies a similarly frantic energy, with the subsequent ‘The Old Man’ homing in on the gloomy foreboding Owusu carries with him throughout life. The rising star allows you a breather come track four, accompanying a caramel-coated backing track with lyrics showcasing his introspection, questioning our desire to search for purpose. Not straying far from the core of the album, Owusu nods to his anarchic and fateful world with the chorus, “You’re going to hell, baby; I’ll see you there.”

The multi-genre nature of the offering rears its head in the consequent ‘Freak Boy’, ‘Tied Up’ and ‘That’s Life (A Swamp)’, as they display Owusu’s talent in producing catchy pop-like sounds with respective edges of new wave and funk. The album’s inaugural heat is revisited in ‘Balthazar’ and ‘Stay Blessed’ before culminating with the hip-hop garage fusion of ‘What Comes Will Come’ and the soulful ‘Stuck To The Fan’ – both of which propagate accepting the absurdity that drove the anger from the album’s beginning. Talk about a full circle moment.   

With quite the crack team behind him, the caliber of the album is hardly surprising. From Jason Evigan – who’s past collaborators include Rufus Du Sol and Sza – to Sol Was – producer of Beyonce’s Renaissance album – Genesis Owusu is in good company. Having formulated the album’s visual identity with celebrated New Zealand artist Lisa Reihana, Struggler is a multi-dimensional feat of creative work.   

Here, we spoke with Genesis about his favourite place to play, his dream collaborators and what shaped his music taste growing up.  

1. Who is Genesis Owusu?

“Depends who you ask. Some say an interesting musician, some say sex symbol. My team ran a few Facebook ads promoting my upcoming tour and the 60 year-old Alabamans in the comments say Genesis Owusu is a gay Satan worshipper. Personally I think that Genesis Owusu could be all of those things and more. The entirety of our collective imaginations.” 

 2. Describe your sophomore album Struggler in 10 words or less. 

“Roaches run, trying not to get stepped on by Gd [God].”

3. If you could show an alien one song from the album, which would you pick and why?

“‘Leaving The Light’. I feel like it’d probably go hard in a UFO. The extraterrestrial subs gotta go crazy. Also because they truly would have just “left the light” by parking on our hellhole.” 

4. Which album was instrumental in shaping your music taste growing up?

“‘In Search of…’ by N.E.R.D. The fusions of rock, R&B, soul and hip hop, with electronic flavoured synths really was a precursor to my foundational sonic pallette. Pharrell was a big influence of mine.” 

5. Which is your favourite city to play live in and why?

“It has to be hometown Canberra. But honestly, any place with some fans to sing the lyrics back to me, some food that won’t make me feel ill (looking at you, America), and a bed to sleep in after the show, is good in my book.”

6. What’s your party trick?

“Being Genesis Owusu.”

7. If you could pick any brand to design a custom tour wardrobe for yourself, who would you pick?

“Right now, everything is designed in-house, and nothing is really going to beat that. No one knows us better than us. That cropped red blazer with the shoulder pads was magic.”  

8. What can we expect from your upcoming live shows? 

“Chaos and theatre.” 

9. Who is your dream collaborator?

“Maybe David Lynch, or the Safdie Brothers.”

10. What’s your go-to look for a night out?

“Black mandarin collar dress shirt, unbuttoned. White Lowes singlet. High-waisted, slim fit, slightly flared black dress pants. At least two belts with silver buckles. Eytys square toe heels, or some black sandals with red socks.”

Photography courtesy of Bec Parsons.


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