Genesis Owusu's new album is 'Struggler' Genesis Owusu has won just about every award he could in his home country of Australia with his debut album. Now with album number two, he's ready to take on America.

'Struggler' is Genesis Owusu's bold follow-up to his hit debut album

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A funny thing happened a few years ago. A brand-new artist started winning practically all the music awards Australia had to give.




MARTÍNEZ: The Australian Music Prize, the Rolling Stone Australia Award, the J Awards, the AIR Awards. He just kept winning.


UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: This is Genesis Owusu's fourth win of the night, making him the most awarded artist of 2021.

MARTÍNEZ: Now he's got his sights set on America. His second album just came out. It's called "Struggler."


GENESIS OWUSU: (Singing) Yeah. Cosmic dread, I got a fistful. Ignorance is bliss, then I'm trying to stay blissful. I know you wanna. I know you wanna.

MARTÍNEZ: Genesis Owusu might be big in Australia now, but when his family first came to the country from West Africa, the adjustment took time for him and his new neighbors.

OWUSU: Immigrating to Australia from Ghana definitely led me to being an outsider in the space that I was in. I had never met white people. White people had never met me. So it was, like, a definite strange introduction for the both of us. People expected me to do different things. People expected me to walk a different way, talk a different way because, I guess back then, you know, the only Black people that a lot of Australians had knowledge of at the time was, like, 50 Cent and Eddie Murphy. So I was, like, either, like, the gangster or the comedian, and I didn't really fit into either of those roles. So I kind of had to learn how to be myself from a young age.

MARTÍNEZ: Well, you studied journalism, right? I mean...

OWUSU: I did.

MARTÍNEZ: ...Do any of those skills translate or head over to when you're writing songs?

OWUSU: I'm going to be real with you. Not at all.

MARTÍNEZ: Not at...


OWUSU: I knew I wanted to do music before I even went into uni to do journalism. But, you know, my parents flew all the way from Ghana to give me and my brother a education. And they're very proud of what we do now. But I went to uni to kind of give them, you know, the little gift and show them that I appreciate their efforts.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. So I was also a journalism major. My parents were immigrants, and the second I graduated college, my mom grabbed that diploma and said, this is mine.

OWUSU: Yeah (laughter).

MARTÍNEZ: She took it from me, and I understood. I knew that this was more about her kind of accomplishing what she hoped for her children that she didn't get an opportunity to accomplish.

OWUSU: Exactly. I felt the - pretty much the exact same way.


MARTÍNEZ: The new album is called "Struggler," a theme that runs through a lot of this music - the struggle to make sense of the world, the struggle to to be who you are in this world. What's the struggler?

OWUSU: It's an album that was definitely framed by the last few years of this chaotic and absurd world that we've all lived in. Being in Australia, we suffered extremely crazy bushfires and then hailstorms, and then we all went through COVID together. And every day through that, we kind of all still got up and put on our ties and, like, kept on trucking. And I think that is so absurd but also so inspiring.


OWUSU: (Singing) Leaving the light. Always thought I was living a lie. Put my hand up on my heart, I beat my chest. The chaos moving down and down, seep in my flesh.

And that kind of held the, like, foundational subtext for what the album exists, and just like the human will to survive and persevere through all odds.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. So the human will to survive, but through a roach, right? Because your a protagonist in a lot of your songs is a roach. So, you know, give some examples of roaches in your lyrics - in "Leaving The Light," stamp me down, but a roach keeps roaching.


OWUSU: (Singing) Green hills, I can see them smoking - big smile as the flames approaching. I'm a beast. I can feel them poaching. Stamp me down, but a roach keeps roaching.

MARTÍNEZ: Tell us about that for a second here - like, a roach in terms of this will to survive, because I know that most people know that roaches is can survive almost anything - right? - nuclear disaster, and roaches will still be around, more than likely.

OWUSU: That's right. That's right. Yeah. Talking about everything that I just spoke about, like these bushfires and global pandemics, when we look at ourselves through that scope, I think for me and a lot of people around me, it was really, like, pulling the rug from under our feet about, like, how out of control we really are for a lot of the circumstances around us, like these little pests, these little bugs. But somehow, just like the roach, we just manage to keep struggling through and keep walking through. Once you think you killed the roach, you haven't. Once you do, a second one will come out of the woodworks, you know? I just thought it was a kind of perfect metaphor for us as human.


OWUSU: (Singing) I was trapped - trapped, trapped in the black. I'm a roach. Don't knock me on my back. Legs in the air, hope God don't attack.

MARTÍNEZ: Legs in the air, hope God don't attack. You think God cares about a little roach?

OWUSU: That's the question. I think - that's the question. We do have the roach as the protagonist, but then there's the God character, which is a metaphor for everything that I was just talking about, this - these huge, unrelenting, uncontrollable forces that should - by every logical means, should have crushed us a long time ago. But for some reason, somehow, some way, we just keep on roaching to live another day.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, 'cause it makes me wonder then - I mean, maybe we are a lot stronger than we think we are.

OWUSU: We're absolutely a lot stronger than we think we are. Tasks as simple as getting through another day require a great amount of strength that we don't give ourselves enough credit for. So I think, you know, this album goes through a lot of the darkness and a lot of, like, existential questions as to why. But I think under all of that is trying to shine a light on how stubbornly powerful we actually are.


OWUSU: (Singing) I'm bleeding from my legs, but it's all right today. It's better out here than the hell where I stay.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Genesis Owusu. His new album is called "Struggler." Genesis, thanks for sharing your story.

OWUSU: Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate it.


OWUSU: (Singing) I'll punch my way through hell. What other choice can I chose? The puppet strings tug from my head to my toes. I said the world...

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