Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Genesis Owusu on the childhood influences that made him -- and his music -- what it is

genesis still 2

In listing to Genesis Owusu's album, "Smiling with No Teeth," I'm struck at how confident he is behind the mic. It may have helped that when he was 14 years old he was in a dance crew. They called themselves "The Avengers," each having a dancing super power of some sort. Owusu's super power was popping and locking. And they were big time. They performed in front of thousands of people all around Australia, and even beyond.

"That's a little lost arc in my life that I don't get to bring up very much," he admits in the interview.

Another one of those little arcs is the video game Jet Set Radio Future that Owusu played on the original Xbox when he was five years old. It's set in neo-Tokyo where freedom of expression has been outlawed and corrupt billionaire corporations rule the government and the police force and you play as a roller-blading, graffiti-ing street dancer. "I herald that as my greatest influence." Metaphorically, and also because the soundtrack was a mix of all kinds of genres and sounds, and stands as the biggest musical influence on the album.

Lyrically, Owusu looked toward Kendrick's "To Pimp A Butterfly" and the way it's held together by some major themes. "The album really only talks about two things, which are depression and racism," he says. "And they all tie together in this theme of the black dogs which is in pretty much every song either representing the internal black dog which is depression or the external black dog which is racism."