Photography Ashley Goodall

genesis owusu: rapper, meme admin, aspiring stock photo model

You should probably get familiar with Genesis Owusu, before he blows up — as an artist or a stock photo model, it could go either way.

by Isabelle Hellyer
26 October 2017, 11:55pm

Photography Ashley Goodall

I first met Genesis Owusu (Kofi Ansah to friends and family) about a year ago, when I was back in Canberra visiting parents. We both grew up there, but had never met — I'm from the Northside and he's from the South, which might as well be different timezones. I'd asked to take his picture, and we ended up driving around listening to Life of Pablo, talking about Kanye. I think he talked about Yu-Gi-Oh cards too. By then, he had a few songs out on Soundcloud that were getting sent around in DMs — heard this yet? — especially Goondocks CBR Zoo, a track about pulling up at the local zoo with your best friends. i-D had profiled the Ansah Brothers, his project with brother Kojo Ansah. But aside from that, and nod from Triple J Unearthed High, he was a fairly local act. Then, a month or so ago, I got an email from a PR agent about a Genesis Owusu east-coast tour. In the last 12 months, he's levelled up.

There was an EP, Cardrive, then Sideways, a Hiatus Kayote-produced single added to full rotation on Triple J — the hook "Onyame gye me, gye me, O" sung in Twi, a language spoken in his native Ghana, translating to "O God, save me, save me, oh." Where Genesis' older work would flit between jazz and hip hop, Sideways synthesises both genres into sound of his own.

Genesis was in town for the Melbourne leg of the Sideways tour, so we talked getting serious about music, the stock photo industry, and Canberra. Of course.

How does it feel to be Genesis Owusu right now?
It's super busy, super crazy busy. And obviously, I'm still doing uni. Everything is happening right now.

What do you think was the moment that this, your music, all ticked over? You're getting bigger.
Maybe this year, when I got a manager and he actually started doing things in a more… professional way. His name is Andrew.

How did they get in contact with you?
Instagram. His wife, Beck, found me on there and liked one of my photos. I thought it was super weird, so I kind of ignored them for a bit. When they commented on a picture asking to have my email, I just gave them my email, and didn't think much of it. They said, "Hey, we have this independent label," and I was thinking, "But why are you trying to hit me up on Instagram? I'm not looking to sign anything right now." I just kind of went on with my life, until I was playing at GTM [Groovin the Moo]. Andrew shows up with his whole family. The festival was sold out, but he'd arranged VIP tickets just to see my 11AM set. He watched me, then flew back to Sydney straight after. It was wild. When we talked, they were "We love you, we love everything you do. Let's build on it, make it better." So I thought, sure.

Who's the crew you arrived with here today?
They're the goons. They're just my friends who I make stuff with: clothes, music, videos. I bring them with me everywhere, they jump on stage sometimes. One of them is my DJ.

You've been playing quite a few festivals lately, no?
Yeah, did Spilt Milk 2016, but I had the same set time as Flume, which was... fun. Also did Laneway this year, and I've played GTM three times under three different projects. I played 2014 with my brother's act, Citizen Kay, he brought me along. In 2016 I played as Genesis Owusu and repaid the favour by bringing him and my friends along. Then in 2017 it was our duo, The Ansah Brothers. I'm finessing the system.

Triple J, they've got behind your music.
Yeah, Richard Kingsmill. "It's quirky, four and a half stars."

What's next?
World domination. I'm putting my face everywhere. I was on an ad for the University of Canberra, which is on buses, and Spotify and shit. I also did a thing for Local Supply, a sunglasses company in Sydney. They're putting me on buses as well.

You're a model then.
Yeah, that's the next thing. I'm trying to get into stock photos.

Interesting. Can you DJ?
I'll get into it.

Do you still live in Canberra? At home?
Yeah, it's so great. It's so easy. Like, so easy. I love my parents and they love me, which is great. I appreciate it so much. They're my biggest fans.

What's your favourite city?
Canberra. Southside Canberra. Northside is a different country. I don't even know where Northside is. It's cool, but it's foreign. Outside of Canberra, Sydney's been pretty great to play shows in. I like the vibe of Melbourne as well. I haven't played in Adelaide or Brisbane yet, that's coming up.

Who are some of your favourite Aussie musicians?
Sampa The Great — she's the queen — Remi, Baro, and my supports on this tour, I love all my supports.

If I gave you $1 million right now, what would you do with it?
Invest. I don't know in what yet, but I'm not here throwing money around.

Would you spend your money on brands?
It's all about Pur. You'll only see me in Pur. Much like the brand's title, the clothes are very pure, very silky. It's just really sleek, it's like Apple.

Aren't you an Android user?
I am. Samsung Galaxy S8.

What's your most frequently used emoji?
Probably the rose emoji. Or those three little hearts.

Where do you want to travel to?
Well obviously, 'cause I do hip hop, the US. Probably LA first. But I think because I'm such an internet child, as long as my presence is strong on the internet, I can stay here. I'm cool in Canberra.

Do you have any American superfans?
I have Spotify Insights and I was checking out where my listeners are from the other day. I had some in Bolivia and Uruguay and shit. It was crazy. Let's look now. Okay, so Luxembourg is 58th, my 31st most-listened country is the Czech Republic, we've got Slovakia in 43, Guatemala and El Salvador in there too. Australia is number one, New Zealand is two, and the United States is three.

Would you ever enter Eurovision on Australia's behalf?
Yeah, I've never thought of that. Guy Sebastian? I could do better than Guy.

If you could be on one reality TV show, what would it be?
I don't really watch reality TV. Is Eric Andre a reality show?

No. Would you collaborate with Eric Andre on a song?
Of course.

Is he your favourite comedian?
Nah, that's Dave Chapelle. Easy.

Would you ever break into comedy yourself?
I'm only funny on the internet.

Don't say that. Stand up — would you ever do it?
No, but I sometimes break into accidental standups in my sets. Once my friend recorded one of those moments and put the Seinfeld theme music behind it, and it really worked.

What's your favourite social media?
Instagram. It's all about the visuals.

Do you have Snapchat? Who's your longest snap streak with?
With my girlfriend.

What's your favourite Snapchat filter?
I liked the face swap one, where you could swap with existing photos. I'd swap with stock photos.

What's your favourite meme at the moment?
There's a new meme that hasn't hit the markets yet. I don't know how to describe it... it'll be like, two people saying "Party rock is in the hou… se tonight." I don't even know how to explain. I'm a semi-secret meme page admin. I know Facebook's dead, but there's a group called CTFU Universe — so fire. They're the ones creating all the memes and no-one knows. The monkey haircut meme? That's where it came from. [If you're dying to know what meme Kofi's talking about, click here ].

Who's a musician that we'll be really surprised that you like?
I love Young Thug. I was so disappointed when he didn't come to Laneway. He was supposed to come, the same year I was playing. I went to Migos last night in Sydney, and they played two Young Thug songs, but they were rarer, so nobody in the crowd knew them. Then they just played DJ Khaled All I Do Is Win, and it was heartbreaking.

Offset and Cardi B, that's a great couple. Any other celebrity couples that you love?
John Legend and Chrissy Teigen.

What sport do you follow?

Are you flexible?
Yeah, I can touch my toes.

Have you ever written a song about love?
Yes, a couple.

About hate and violence?

A song about being sad?

What's the most romantic thing you've ever done?
It's my girlfriend's birthday next week and I've planned a lot for it, but it's a surprise. Basically, all the shit she's ever said she wished she had, I've remembered and I've gotten. So I'll give that to her, and maybe go on a picnic, get some flowers.

Listen to Sideways on Spotify or Soundcloud.

Genesis Owusu
music interview