Artists to Watch in 2018: Genesis Owusu
I was first introduced to Genesis Owusu through his live set at Melbourne’s infamous Boney. He was on support duties, it was a rainy weeknight, and the vibe in the room was feeling pretty low. Then, Genesis launched into his set and instantly the mood shifted. Switching between left of field jazz breakdowns and high intensity noise hip hop, the crowed instantly fed off his energy, and I was hooked. It kind of reminded me of a more chill Death Grips, something I don’t say lightly.
2017 was undoubtedly the year of Australian hip hop. It’s almost a cliche at this point to make the observation that Australia’s scene is not what it was, and the industry is quickly learning. There’s no denying there are stacks of talented, innovative rappers that pop up every day doing amazing things. However, as the genre becomes commercialised it inevitably pulls towards the mainstream. We hear a distinctly US influenced sound that permeates throughout.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t necessarily see this a negative thing. I know for many young, aspiring African-Australian artists that I have interviewed, they felt they had more to relate to in African-American culture then in much of Australia’s hip hop culture, or lack there of, which traditionally appealed to a narrow spectrum of white Australia. Geographic lines mean a lot less for a generation that grew up together on the internet.
Yet, Genesis leaves this all behind. He’s carving out his own space with a genre self described as “21st Century punk-jazz”. It’s experimental, weird, and crazy good. It’s this sort of innovation that makes me excited about Australian hip hop in 2018: artists that push the boundaries and redefine the parameters of what it means to make hip hop in Australia. These, to me, are truly the champions of Australia’s so-called ‘new wave’.
The Ghanian born, Canberra based artist’s talent has been sizzling away for a while. At age 17, he was placed as a finalist in Triple J Unearthed High. By 19 he landed himself a slot at Laneway Festival and collaborated with Grammy nominated, neo-soul royalty Hiatus Kaiyote members. Coming into the end of 2017, Genesis clearly has listeners behind him. He placed in the top ten of Triple J Unearthed charts last year, as well as scoring a spot on Red Bull’s Sound Select alongside up and comers Haiku Hands and Mallrat. He’s also heading out on tour with Junor next year. Genesis seems to have tick all the boxes, and his hard work, talent and courage to step out of the box poises him as ready to make 2018 his year. We can’t wait to watch.
Words by SONNY THOMAS