A Beautiful Blend of Funk, Rap and Soul: A Review of Genesis Owusu’s Smiling With No Teeth (2021)

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Fantastic

Smiling With No Teeth is full of ambition, beauty and great lyricism.

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Genesis Owusu seems to have arrived out of nowhere and quickly gained a lot of traction. However, Genesis has been making music since 2017; they’re just only now starting to catch on. The 23 year old from Australia seems to have dropped his debut album, Smiling With No Teeth, at the perfect time – just as Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak released their soul-reviving single ‘Leave the Door Open’ (as the duo Silk Sonic) and JPEGMAFIA dropped his new abstract, internet influenced hip-hop EP, simply titled EP2!, as Owusu’s record seems to beautifully toe the line between the styles of both. The album, running with 15 tracks over 54 minutes, seems to hop between genres for fun, making clean transitions from throwback funk and soul (Funkadelic’s incredible Maggot Brain record came to mind, especially with the heavy bass use on most of these songs), to rap and even into some songs like the excellent ‘Black Dogs!’ which shows influence from punk with its extremely high energy and more aggressive vocals.

Considering his age, Owusu seems to really know music. His ambitious genre-blending, surprisingly, never feels forced or gimmicky – the music, across the entire record, flows together beautifully. The five track run from the ‘Waitin’ On Ya’ to ‘I Don’t See Colour’ is one of the most impressive series of songs of the year so far, all covered with beautiful vocals, great lyrics and highly varied instrumentation that gives the album a huge range, but relies on Owusu’s lyricism and repeated themes within those lyrics to keep everything held together. The production across the entire album is incredibly clean: each song sounds very hi-fi, but never to an alienating degree where sounds can start to feel artificial (again, Owusu’s voice may be responsible for this).

‘Gold Chains’ is another highlight on the album. Being one of the singles initially released in February, some had heard it prior to the album, but again the versatility meant that nothing was spoiled. ‘Gold Chains’ is the clearest example of a rap song on the record, seeing Owsus deliver two terrific verses that create an eerie link between slavery, capitalism and mental health (See also: Kanye West’s ‘New Slaves’) over a beat that starts as a simple 90s boom-bap style drum beat with accompanying synth and later on throws an unkempt electric guitar prominently into the mix. Owusu’s themes throughout the album, those of racism, his personal hope and successes, mental health and abuse, all come together across this heavy variation of sounds to create what is really quite a hopeful record – one full of beauty and emotion, catchy and memorable, progressive and aggressive. Here’s hoping that his next record will be just as good!

Genesis Owusu’s great debut Smiling With No Teeth is now available to stream on Apple Music, Spotify and Soundcloud via House Anxiety/Ourness. Listen to the first single, ‘Don’t Need You’ below:

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Second year film student - film, music and poetry fan!

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