Woaahh… this came out of nowhere
In the seemingly always-changing music scene, versatility seems like a necessity in music for an artist to retain longevity now more than ever. For a debut album to be successful, I feel as if the artist should provide both a welcoming introduction to who they are, oozing charisma and personality out every pore, along with showcasing what they have to offer in the larger scope of musical culture. Whether that’s through staying in one specific lane and not diverging from a sound that they already knew worked for them or forging a sound that they will abandon not too far into the future is a decision that should be left to the artists themselves. Scarce are the artists who are able to gloriously construct a cohesive debut album that pulls from as prodigious of a variety of influences as Smiling With No Teeth has.
As someone who was unaware of the Australian artist to seeing him appear on the website’s front page, I must say that, first and foremost, I am astonished at how multifaceted this album is, especially considering it’s a debut for an artist whose creativity is only beginning to burgeon. Spanning ludicrous industrial hip-hop, sharply produced, glitzy, and swagger-filled pop-rap, smooth as silk neo-soul, gospel-inspired slow ballads, savage post-punk, synth-pop, spoken-word, and even a fusion between African roots and clipping.-esque experimental hip-hop, Owusu’s appreciation for genres other than pop-rap, the one he seems to primarily operate under, is unparrelled. Artistic parallels that can be made bounce between Death Grips, Lou Reed, Outkast, Thundercat, Yves Tumor, Childish Gambino, The Velvet Underground, Moses Sumney, and so, so many more.
If the diversity across the tracklist makes you fearful of an album that is a disorderly hodgepodge of unrealized and poorly executed ideas, then you should be pleased with the news that Smiling With No Teeth retains cohesion through its steadfast themes focusing on racial injustice and mental resilience through the toughest of times. Even though Genesis Owusu is currently a relatively amateur figure in music, the ambition and eclecticism worn so boldly on Owusu's golden shoulders may make you believe otherwise, by and large due to how few times it succumbs to overambition. Some stylistic roads that Genesis Owusu treads down don’t work out as well as others such as the unenthusiastically performed Centrefold or On the Move!, which is a bit too redundant of a Death Grips song to be forgivable. Nevertheless, the few moments where we witness Owusu failing to pristinely adapt to whatever sound he attempts to nail are squashed by the pile of songs where Owusu goes above and beyond at perfecting the art of broad-based musical experimentation. Genesis Owusu is an artist to look out for in the future, and this is only the start to what will most definitely be a chain of phenomenal albums.
Favorite Tracks: The Other Black Dog, Waitin’ on Ya, Don’t Need You, Drown, Gold Chains, I Don’t See Colour, Black Dogs!, Whip Cracker, Easy, No Looking Back, Bye Bye
Worst Track: Smiling with No Teeth