With One of R&B's Most Unique Voices, Kaleem Taylor Also Proves Pen | 'She Knows'
Evan Dale // Oct 21, 2020
Unmistakable is Kaleem Taylor’s voice from the onset of Distant Love to the closing breaths of I Understand. Framing the greater concept of his most recent delivery, She Knows, the two tracks and each in between subsequently pull into focus the refined growth and ultimately emerged signature of a Kaleem Taylor that has been defined by that same unmistakability since day one. But, the Kaleem Taylor we really know – the prolific one-of-a-kind vocal register testing the limits of the London Neo-Soul reprise while at the same time testing the organic lengths of R&B at its vocal and penned cores, really came to fruition with the release of Not Alone early last year. In its wake – and in that of the greater Surface sphere it came to be a part of – he’s only continued to carve out an irreplicable aesthetic that could have been born at any point in R&B’s history from a 90’s Golden Era, to a new one at the hands of timeless artists like Kaleem himself.
Also reminiscent are the floaty, underwater synth strokes that open Distant Love, pulling a listener on equal footing with the oft-atmospheric Kaleem Taylor; drowning willing ears in emotion sourced equal parts from a God-given register and a learned, experientially grounded pen. And that was only the intro. For the remainder of its 20-minute course, She Knows follows suit. Always playing within the realm of its established muted piano keys and bass-heavy modernist production at large, Kaleem’s voice proves to be the force for the exuberant explosiveness driving the meandering direction of the project’s overarching emotionality. It’s the power an artist has when they have one of the rangiest vocal breadths in all of music. And yet Kaleem doesn’t accept that as his end-all-be-all standout. As a writer, he’s also bloomed.
Though he’s long been adept at putting his emotive responses to the heartbroken and the lustful to paper, Kaleem’s every word rings anthemic, emotion-evoking, and thought-provoking with his new project. If Surface were a diary, and Who’s There its most well-curated entry of thought, She Knows is his published autobiography sourced in similar experiential material, but ultimately mastered, putting him on an equal playing field with many of modern R&B’s dominant wordsmiths, with also still subsisting as one of the arena’s most dominantly unique vocal presences. And for that, She Knows is gleaming second with artistic growth.
But first, it beams simply as a timeless Rhythm & Blues thesis. Kaleem Taylor’s growth into one of the most unique up-and-comers in the Neo-Soul circuit has been a long time coming, so the earmarked genius that belays every moment of She Knows is something the music world, too, ultimately knew – or at least saw on the horizon. But, to have not only an exhibitionist display of that expected growth; to have in turn something more – a masterpiece of the R&B EP scale – She Knows really places a bookmark into the space Kaleem is at now – a name to know for anyone interested in the vocally-dominant spaces of music.
For there will never be a Kaleem Taylor project that doesn’t hark on his vocalism. If anyone has ever sounded like him, they were a part of a distant, uniquely imperfect chapter in R&B’s early past. With his return – with She Knows, especially – a sound reminiscent of that past has also made a comeback. From top to bottom, the project is a playground for Kaleem Taylor to explore his range at its widest pitch. Even in the muffled, distorted entry into leading single, Until, Kaleem Taylor boasts more signature notes than just about anyone else in R&B. And when that intro breaks and his legitimate range, overlaid with more depth of his own dubs, a listener is wholly immersed in the explosiveness – the unparalleled universe – of his register. Here, the chorus of Until may perhaps be Kaleem Taylor’s rangiest display to date; one of music’s most inexplicably wide-reaching ranges to date. And throughout She Knows, a similar feat is achieved.
Weaving in and out of the interstellar ambience of She Knew, Kaleem’s voice hits bleeding highs and bellowing lows in subsequence. With a more middle-grounded range of notes, Kaleem puts his range on display through the echoey moans of his own vocal layering at the hook of Feel. With a sharper, steadier delivery, Everyday shows off his control, while Questions again makes a return to the rangiest of vocal waves he – or anyone else for that matter – can muster. From beginning to end, Kaleem’s vocal gamut is unmistakable, irreplicable, and dominant; from beginning to end, so, too, is the eloquent production and emotive penmanship of She Knows – the most well-rounded collection in the canon of one of R&B’s most unique forces.