Canberra rap star Genesis Owusu has taken out album of the year at the annual Australian Record Industry Awards (ARIAs) for Struggler, also bringing home awards for the best hip hop release and best independent release.
It’s the second time he’s picked up the major award after winning in 2021 for the album Smiling with No Teeth.
Struggler is loosely inspired by 19th-century Austrian writer Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis, a novella about a man who wakes one morning to find himself transformed into a cockroach.
When the album was released in May this year, Owusu said, “The struggler runs through an absurd world with no ‘where’ or ‘why’ at hand. Just an instinctual inner rhythm, yelling at them to survive the pestilence and lightning bolts coming from above. A roach just keeps roaching.”
Reviewers have described the album as “risky” and “complex” and “the work of an artist giving power to some of his most radical sonic ideas”.
The singer is currently on tour and accepted the best hip hop rap award from London, telling the live audience: “Hip hop made me who I am, and allowed me to speak on the things I wanted to speak on, so I cherish it with my heart always.”
Owusu used his speech at the awards night to call for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, asking the audience to “pay attention to what is happening in the world”.
It’s been a meteoric rise for the artist and the win places him in rare company alongside the likes of internationally acclaimed acts Tame Impala, Dean Lewis, Amy Shark and Gang of Youths.
Owusu’s music blends hip hop, soul, funk and R&B elements and crosses multiple genres from song to song. He’s a popular festival performer who now tours widely internationally.
Allowing his 2021 win, Owusu said: “I used to get side-eyed a lot when I was younger for the way I dressed and the things I did, but all the people I loved and respected always stood firm, immovable and unshakeable because we knew the power in who we were and what we created.
“This means so much to me. For all those people worldwide, eccentrics, black people, know it’s not up to us to change for people, but it’s up to people to catch up and see what they’re missing out on.”
Owusu’s career began in Canberra, performing at Transit Bar and other local venues. The Ghanaian-born artist emigrated to Canberra with his family in 2000 and was educated in the ACT, completing a Bachelor of Journalism at the University of Canberra in 2018. His brother Kojo Owusu-Ansah is also a hip hop rapper who performs as Citizen Kay.