Caturday with Genesis Owusu

Lavinia Woods

What do you get when you combine the old with the new, the poise with the fun? Rising hip-hop artist Genesis Owusu. Fun, exhilarating, innovative, and somewhat of an enigma, Genesis Owusu is a Ghana/Canberra artist who always just happens to be steps ahead. To my luck and surprise, I was able to exchange questions and answers with Genesis Owusu to try to solve some of that puzzle that is his artistry. From old-school influencers to the muscles of mix-media and anywhere in between, Genesis Owusu delivers.

Lavinia Woods: Being someone born in Ghana and raised in Canberra, Australia, how has both territories influenced you as an artist?
Genesis Owusu: Being part of the diaspora is a culture in itself. Being born in Ghana but raised in Canberra means I can dip my feet into both cultures and make something new and exciting, but also makes it hard to properly fit into either place. Growing up in Canberra, I knew no black people outside my family and the people at church. In a place that white, I felt like my options were to assimilate or to fully embrace the label of the outcast. I chose the latter, and the majority of my life decisions after, artistically or otherwise, have been a product of that decision.
LW: The cloth-covered face has become somewhat of a staple look for you, why did you choose the coverup appearance? What does it mean to you?
GO: The phrase “smiling with no teeth” essentially means “pretending things are okay when they’re not” – performative comfort; so throughout the album, the songs are sonically, upbeat, fun, sexy and aggressive, but there is always something creeping a little under the surface. I’ve been teasing this theme visually since my earlier singles. The art for my older singles WUTD, Good Times, and everything since then have all featured an image that is very obviously fractured, but has been doused in gold, as if this superficial showering of gold grillz and rings is enough to take away from the glaring problem at hand. Throughout the album and it’s singles, this theme is personified into characters known as The Black Dogs, and the combination of the bandages and the gold become the uniform for these lurking creatures that can’t just be shooed away by superficial solutions.
LW: On your instagram, you post a lot of art, including that of Basquiat. How do other creative mediums influence your music and your creative process? / Everything is very visual – the distinctive look of your clothing and the style of your music videos, how does the visuals affect your music? In what way do they coexist?
GO: When I started making music, I started creating through a bunch of different mediums around the same time. Music was never the end-all- be-all, every different medium was just a different tool to express myself with, and some tools just work better for specific projects. I had a message/sentiment I wanted to get out, so it would be a case of “does this work better on a t-shirt or as a song lyric?” “Is this the beginning of a drawing or poem?”. Everything is considered with the same degree of importance. The music, the fashion, the artwork and visuals are all key elements in creating the whole motion picture.
LW: Earlier this year you said “I’m Prince, if he were a rapper” – can you elaborate? If Prince were still alive, what do you think he would say about your music?
GO: I didn’t actually say that, I was misquoted. I said I used Prince as inspiration during the album’s creation process, but tried not to be too on the nose about it. Rather than trying to make music that sounds like Prince, I was in a mode of “if Prince were a rapper in 2020, what would he do”. But I don’t know what he would say about my music; that’ll have to be left as an unfortunate mystery.
LW:Although your music is very innovative and fresh, there’s also hints of old-school tempo and beats played out. What kind of old- school music has influenced your music? What artists did you look up to as a kid?
GO: Ray Charles, Bob Marley, MJ, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Andre 3000, Ice Cube, John Coltrane, Mos Def, Roy Ayers, Funkadelic, Sade, Erykah Badu, Madlib. The majority of music that inspires me is probably before my time. Not in a “I was born in the wrong generation wah wah” way though.
LW: Did you always know you wanted to make music?
GO: Nah, I actively avoided it for a while. My older brother was already making music and I was trying to carve my own identity, but he made our family study his personal studio, so it became kind of inescapable.
LW:In what ways does your identity come out in your music?
GO: In every way that it can inside the limitations of audio.

Click to listen to Genesis’ playlist

The deluxe version of Genesis’ debut album Missing Molers is out now and available here