RECKON shares coffee + sweet words/bold ideas with musician, Genesis Owusu. He talks The Cardrive EP, Kanye West, brotherhood a la Citizen Kay and why the Australian hip hop scene is experiencing its own Renaissance. Genesis is on tour this week.

Describe your sound:
That’s hard because I kind of like to keep people on their toes. I don’t like to do the same thing twice. I try to be as versatile as possible. It has a lot of jazz influence, and cultural influence, I suppose. I think Ghanaians and Africans in general are very passionate about everything, really. The way they use and hear rhythm-- and immediately start dancing wherever they are. It’s a very integral part of the culture, the way the sounds hit people. The way rhythm sits with people. It’s a very crucial part of the culture.
What’s your commentary on the Australian music scene as it stands?
I think the Australian hip hop scene right now is really interesting. A lot of people may not be noticing it, but there’s a kind of Renaissance bubbling. There’s a whole bunch of new artists bubbling to the surface. It’s become a lot more colourful. There’s a lot more diversity and with that diversity there’s a lot of people bringing in unique sounds from their cultures, with unique experiences. So, it’s not all on one plain. I’m excited about it and I’m happy to be apart of it.
Tell us about the process of making The Cardrive EP?
The process was very loose. My brother (Citizen Kay) and a friend of mine produced a lot of it. I sat with it for a long time; like a year, actually. I didn’t want it to be just a ‘moment.’ I wanted to be able to come back to it however many years later and be like, “Yeah, I like this.” I had to meditate on it. I sat in my room, my little cave, for a long time writing. I was in Year 12 at the time I wrote it. There was a whole lot of the stereotypical “this is going to affect your whole future,” “you better do well in this or you’re going to ruin the rest of your life.” So it was the stress of that mixed with the external factors of success in music. They clashed, and it resulted in the EP.
Who do you draw inspiration from, creatively?
As a person, Kanye West. Honestly. He was the first Hip Hop artist I listened to. I like the way he pushes boundaries and the way he believes in himself to the fullest. No one can tell him different, which sometimes can be a troublesome thing but in the end, that’s just Kanye and no one can do anything about it, really. He’s like his own force. And then I draw musical influences from Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, a lot of jazz, Kendrick Lamar, a lot of funk. I just like old stuff. I was brought up on Michael Jackson and Bob Marley. I try to learn something from everything I listen to, everything I watch.
What are your creative rituals?
If you were to surround yourself with nothing but food, all you’d do is eat. So if you surround yourself with nothing but music, all you can do is either listen, or create. You adapt to your circumstances. You get to the point where you have to create. If it comes out right, it comes out right. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t-- you just keep going. I like to start and finish things in the same session no matter how long it takes. I don’t even go out to eat or anything when I’m doing it, I just sit down and let it engulf me, I suppose. (With balancing a Journalism degree and music): It can be difficult but I’m getting through it. It teaches me a lot about time management—which is crucial in every situation.
What is Sideways about?
I like to keep (the meaning) ambiguous. When you go to an art gallery and you look at an abstract painting, it ruins it if there’s something there saying: “this is about this” and “this is about that.” I like that people can take their own meaning and interpret it how they want. I like to leave that space.

You said Canberra is deceiving, how?
There’s an underground where you have to know the right people to show you where the greatest events and spots are. I learnt this year that there’s a bar that’s had Jazz nights every Wednesday for the last 15 years. There’s also this spot called ‘The Basement’ which does these huge metal shows. If you were in the metal scene you’d know that. It helps because hip hop is based on everything else, you can draw from anything to make hip hop. So knowing those connections really helps your creativity, you might be able to network with other artists. What hip hop artists are out here making music with metal artists?

In terms of me and my friends we have a clothing label called PUR (“pure”); it’s a collective of creatives who come under the umbrella of clothing. We have musicians, producers, people who make film, photographers. A lot of the photos I have of me are taken by photographers who are associates of the clothing brand. When I perform at bigger festivals I get a group of hype men, which are the clothing brand, they jump around on stage with me. In turn, if my friend’s producing a beat and wants someone to be vocals on it he’ll hit me up. We work within each other. So yeah, that’s what me and my friends do.

What’s making music with your brother like?
There’s love and there’s rivalry. We’re normal brothers in the way we treat each other but not normal in the sense that we’re both creators. I think I inspire him a lot lyrically, and he produced my EP. I’ll walk past his room and he’ll be making something, and I’ll be like “woah, that’s cool, lemme do this.” And he’ll do the same for me. We create effortlessly off each other, I suppose. We made a collaborative mix tape together just for fun. It never got overtly heated but we were very competitive with each other without saying it. If we were both getting on the same song and if someone wrote a better verse you’d be like, “damn!” and have to wait for the next song. You couldn’t rewrite your verse or anything. You’d just have to take it; they’re better than you at this song and you’ll have to be better than them at the next one. Its like a sport! (Laughs).

Book tickets to Genesis’ upcoming shows here .
Follow Genesis here.

Words by JB Keogh
Photography by Daniel Stelmaszak


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