Foundations: Genesis Owusu

Digging into the roots...

Ever since he could remember Genesis Owusu has felt as though he was on the outside looking in.

Born in Ghana but traveling to Australia as a child, he grew up in Canberra, a place where he laid down roots.

This remarkable multi-hyphenate released his debut album 'Smiling With No Teeth' earlier this month, a remarkable record that touched on modern R&B, rock, electronic and more, while elucidating Genesis' overt pop streak.

It's a song cycle that deals with identity, and how we construct it; it also looks at how pressurised forces around us can impinge on those definitions.

He comments: "'Smiling With No Teeth' is performing what the world wants to see, even if you don't have the capacity to do so honestly. Slathering honey on your demons to make them palatable to people who only want to know if you're okay if the answer is yes. That's the idea, turned into beautiful, youthful, ugly, timeless and strange music."

A startling, in-depth release, Clash caught up with Genesis Owusu to unpick his roots in Foundations.

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Kendrick Lamar – 'To Pimp A Butterfly'

The greatest album I’ve ever heard. This album came out when I was in Year 12, and I studied it harder (and got more out of it) than any class I took in school. The tightness of the concept and the amount of layers and complexity, subject-wise and sonically, is unmatched.

I didn’t think music could sound better than 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy', then Kendrick went and dropped this. 

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Rage Against The Machine – 'Rage Against The Machine'

This was the first protest album I had ever heard.

Zack de la Rocha was saying things that I didn’t think you were even allowed to say; things that I agreed with, but things that my 10 year old Black self thought were too controversial to utter. The power of risking it all to speak your truth broke a lot of barriers for me.

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N.E.R.D. – 'In Search Of…'

This was probably the first album I heard that I couldn’t properly categorise, and I loved that. Was it rap? Was it rock? Was it R&B? Yes. It was all of that and more… and Pharrell (along with the rest of the band) did it perfectly.

Highly influential.

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Miles Davis – 'Kind Of Blue'

The first album I ever listened to without lyrics. Taught me how much can be said without words.

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Madvillain – 'Madvillainy'

While 'Kind Of Blue' taught me how much could be said without words, MF DOOM on 'Madvillainy' used words in ways that I could never have imagined. Shakespeare who? Madlib’s insane ability to chop obscure samples from around the world cannot be understated.

All of that, along with the cartoonish concept of these cool ass supervillains made for one of the greatest albums ever.

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'Smiling With No Teeth' is out now.

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