On Genesis Owusu’s sophomore album Struggler, the Ghanaian-born Australian singer and rapper continues to make bold artistic leaps. Whereas his 2021 debut LP Smiling with No Teeth delved into his own experiences with anxiety and depression stemming from anti-Black racism, Struggler more broadly explores perseverance in an increasingly chaotic world.
Drawing inspiration from Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot, Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus, and Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Struggler is, to no surprise, a deeply existential meditation. The album even features repeated references to a roach among its characters who scramble around like chickens with their heads cut off with no motive or reason for doing what they do. Ever honest, Owusu does not exempt himself: he interrogates his own motives throughout Struggler.
Another similarity continues from Smiling with No Teeth to Struggler: like its predecessor, Struggler feels like its own unique world. It is a kaleidoscopic multi-genre world that bounds from funk to hip hop to R&B to punk rock. And very often, Struggler is a futuristic blend of multiple these genres. Owusu’s sophomore effort is gritty. It spikes the heart rate. First single “Leaving the Light” barrels through time and space at warp speed. “Stay Blessed” is a rap-rock banger whose very title (which doubles as the chorus) is a mantra for looking on the bright side despite life’s abundant tribulations. But Struggler is also slick (hear the funky “Tied Up” or silky smooth “See Ya There”) and soothing (“Stuck to the Fan”).
Ultimately, Owusu, if not his main struggler protagonist, learns to lean into the absurdity of the world. In relinquishing his pursuit of a “why” to explain his thoughts and actions, he frees himself from the death grip of existentialism. At the very least, he weakens its clutch. Instead, he savours every moment, every sunset, and every love in life. Sometimes, it takes going through the ringer to arrive at such a place of acceptance. This is what Genesis Owusu is all about, and listeners are welcome to join him in the journey to freedom. Like the struggler, Owusu follows his instincts. And with yet another inventive album under his belt, he proves he is on the right path.
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