Genesis Owusu remerges manically defiant and indestructible on his rapturous second album STRUGGLER. The Ghanaian Australian phenomenon has also announced a ton of U.S. and international tour dates slated for the fall including a stop at The Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles on November 6th. Like his stunning debut Smiling With No Teeth, the follow-up arrives as a concept album of colossal proportions.
Please note: This post may contain affiliate links.
Soundtracked by Owusu’s rabid hip-hop innovations and their fusions of punk-funk STRUGGLER tells the story of “the Roach” as they clamor for survival in a post-apocalyptic world tormented by an omnipotent God. In “The Old Man,” he unveils this antagonist as an amalgamation of all the man-made systems and woes that tyrannically loom over us. But it’s through this cosmic and unfairly absurd contest that Owusu examines the onslaught of existential and spiritual crises that plague the human condition.
It all begins with the album’s fiery opening track “Leaving the Light,” its hyperkinetic and ferocious sonics igniting armageddon as Owusu attempts to outrun it. “Better run, there’s a god, and he’s coming for me,” he chants breathlessly, fueled by a frenetically thrumming bass. At times he’s wracked by a rebellious will — “Crush me with your holy hell / I feel no damage” — but the impossibility of their struggle doesn’t change. “In the end it’s a Roach vs a landslide,” he relents at one point.
Amidst the murky electro-textures of “The Roach” Owusu delves into the journey of the album’s main character while also revealing the collage of influences that he draws from. “Feeling like Gregor Samsa, a bug in the cog of a gray-walled cancer / I’m trying to break free with a penciled stanza / So are we human, or are we dancer?” he asks desperately, referencing the protagonist of Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis” and The Killers song “Human” in single breath.
Owusu disguises a reckoning with nihilism via the gleaming and soulful “See Ya There,” freeing his airy croons against balmy backing vocals and resonant riffs. “We keep searching / For purpose,” he laments. “But was there one, babe?” The liberatingly elated beats that pulsate on “Tied Up!” yank the album from out of the abyss as Owusu struts beamingly alongside catastrophe: “It’s Sodom and Gomorrah / Vogue, strike a pose.”
Other standouts on the album include “Balthazar,” a demented sprint that rallies against a lack of control with a grandiose sense of the things we do have power over. Or the propulsive cacophony and heady rock that bursts from “Stay Blessed,” Owusu howling an affirmation of his transformative journey: “I done been a damn pest / Now watch me sparkle.”
Ultimately, while the album might have an ending, the narrative arc of STRUGGLER doesn’t exactly abide by such conventions. Its closing track “Stuck to the Fan” is a glowingly lucid but hopeful ballad, one that offers a revelation discovered beyond life’s cycles of joy and calamity. That once shit hits the fan — you are for better or worse changed by it.
See Genesis Owusu on tour at The Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles on November 6th.
Words: Steven Ward
Listen to STRUGGLER the new album from Genesis Owusu below!