Beautifully apt for artists capable of both singing and rapping, the current music landscape encourages musicians to think outside the box. Australian artist Genesis Owusu exemplifies this most with his debut album, "Smiling with No Teeth," released Friday, a tasteful melting pot of neo-soul, pop and everything in-between.
Owusu proves he has no issue in trying his hand at new music styles, including a variety of punk, folk and funk influences across the 15 tracks on “Smiling with No Teeth.” While combining multiple genres could have easily resulted in a hodge-podge of tracks with no identity or direction, the artist presents a seamless blend of one punchy and charismatic banger after another.
Leading with tracks like “Don’t Need You,” Owusu seamlessly layers his confident, Prince-like attitude on top of a bed of rich, pulsating bass and gentle-yet-flavorful keyboard chords. This self-assured mindset shines most with the lyrics, “Once I left your crazy ass, I took a therapy session / I won't be richest with the wealth, I'll be the richest in blessings.”
Fellow Australian native and producer Kirin J. Callinan has a history of big-budget arrangements and over-the-top performances, which is apparent most on the record's sixth song, "Drown."
The track opens with electronic, dream-like wails that are interrupted by Callinans low-mixed vocals and twangy electric guitar. While Callinan and Owusu's performances are equally as captivating, the track's lyrics caught my attention most: “You’ve got to lеt me drown / You’ve got to let me / I can’t wait to get better.”
As if his album’s sonic endeavors are not enough, Owusu offers conceptual symbols like the black dog motif placed throughout the entire track listing.
Commonly used to symbolize the devil or death, the black dog is portrayed as Owusu himself, depicting the artist's thoughts on how Black people are viewed by white people. Through furious flows backed by ominous chords shifts, "The Other Black Dog" details the pain and suffering of both Owusu and his community: “The dog with the blackest of bones / It rides on the back of my clothes / And flocks with a murder like crows.”
The motif fits cohesively with the album title’s theme, which highlights Owusu’s perseverance in getting to where he is today — ultimately resulting in a smile. Tracks like “Gold Chains” and “A Song About Fishing” point out the teeth it cost him to get there.
An exciting debut that is loaded with fresh ideas, “Smiling with No Teeth” is primed to make a big splash in various music genres, leading me to foresee Owusu rise in popularity as the record ages. There is something for everyone, and Owusu executes it all so well that the possibilities for what he will do next are endless.