Serious Klein's You Should've Known is a Debut Title That Says it All
Evan Dale // Oct 23, 2018
What more can we say when the title says it all?
You Should’ve Known – Ghanaian-born, German-based artist, Serious Klein’s debut album nods in a not-so-subtle direction towards the self-acknowledgment of musical prowess he has had all along.
30 seconds into the project’s opening track and it’s clear to see, we should’ve known.
One listen through the entire album and it’s true that the whole world should’ve known
Two listens through the hour-long project and it’s safe to say the world will know.
This is not your everyday hip-hop debut, or even the work of now. This is not the work of a polarizing hype-man laying down mediocre lyricism over a powerhouse bassline. Nor is it the product of an overly-lyrical poet saying too much with too little energy. You Should’ve Known is the work of a futuristic veteran – a master of balance between hip-hop’s polar melodic-lyrical fields. And yet, it’s a debut.
It’s debuts like this that reassure us music is experiencing a renaissance of sorts that hasn’t been felt in a while – maybe even ever in the realms of hip-hop and R&B. In a 2018 that has seen a number of debut albums finding themselves in music’s upper tier amongst a populous of projects that has been the most explosive in memory, it’s still shocking and powerful when a project of You Should’ve Known’s caliber comes along from an artist with such a short resume.
Honestly speaking, You Should’ve Known is only matched in its quality and inventiveness as a 2018 debut project by TDE’s SiR and his February debut, November. That same caliber hasn’t been seen in a debut rap album since Isaiah Rashad’s 2016 The Sun’s Tirade.
Though he isn’t a member of TDE, Serious Klein brings something more to the table. He’s another product of the merging between West African roots and a European background redefining the moment’s hottest music spectrum. And though that makes him a rare artist, it also puts him in very particular, very special, very modern company. Artists like dynamic multi-dimensionalist Kojey Radical and vocal force Alxndr London, who unsurprisingly release their music from the UK’s international hotspot, exist too on the plane of young afro-futurists blending into the fold indefinable music for an international age. While Alxndr London released his debut album this Summer and Kojey’s is expected soon, Serious Klein has, for the moment, captured the gaze of worldly transcendentalism, hip-hop, and music in general.
His approach is one that carefully tightropes the spectrums of the melodic and the lyrical. Dynamic penmanship delivered with force and cadence rarely displayed by such profound songwriters drives the project from beginning to end. Through its hour-long course, You Should’ve Known trims all the fat. There is no wasted space.
There is also no call for more space. Each track fluidly floats into the next creating the kind of dynamic experience we’ve come to love and expect from hip-hop’s storytelling elite. In the opposite direction, each song successfully exists as its own unique entity, able to be separated from its surrounding mosaic and thrive as an individual canvas. Again, this is the work of a veteran artist capable of composing an hour-long work of equally durable parts.
But unlike most compositions of such length, Serious Klein maintains, if not escalates You Should’ve Known’s intensity and energy as it moves forward through its first half, culminating in the eruptively energetic Voodoo Money. Through the duration of that first half, Serious Klein perfects his unique spin on the current hype expectation, allowing most noticeably of all, his particularly capturing voice to steal the spotlight from even his profound writing and clean production. The most publicly embraced leading single to the project, 91 Flex, is case and point for his ability to pull together a high-energy hip-hop banger.
But where he thrives as a hyphy rapper with rare lyrical ability in tow, he equals and even further excels as an artist capable of slowing down his flow, switching up his demeanor, and pursuing his music at a more relaxed, introspective level. Beginning with another leading single to the project and following Voodoo Money, Coochie Money acts as the opening track to a part two of sorts, where lyricism and vocals don’t dare take a dive, but simply change direction towards a slower tempo and late-night vibe. Like the first half, the second culminates in a track especially defining of its styling. The liquid title epilogue, Should’ve Known is an exhibition of his vocal dynamism and lyrical prowess, built on a foundation of mallet keys and snap drums that themselves pay homage to the music of Serious Klein’s roots.
And in that cultural dynamism exists the truest genius of artists like Kojey Radical, Alxndr London, and Serious Klein. As the world gets smaller, cultures progressively blend, and music from all corners of the globe penetrates international soundwaves, the most uniquely innovative and worldly of artists are using their personal diversity to drive powerful new waves.
Serious Klein’s blending of hip-hop, soul, and West African instrumentalization – that blending of West African, European, and future global roots – is further explored in his recent collaborative short film with The Fader, The Seed. In the film which follows Klein around a homecoming trip to Ghana 25 years in the making, the artist speaks on and shows in visual form just where his one-of-a-kind sound first came from. Pairing seamlessly with the album, The Seed is a deeper look into a modern transcendental artist who need not the aid of wide-ranging definition, and instead prefers the specificity of his own unique background’s ability to bleed into the now and carve out his own modern corner.
At times, You Should’ve Known’s elemental makeup makes it feel like a signature modern hip-hop project where high energy is held at higher regard than anything else (Boy boy). At other times, the instrumental makeup and vocal delivery of the project makes it seem like the kind of hip-hop album greatly influenced by the neo-soul movement (These Days). But, at all times, these rooted inspirations and modern movements that etch their positions into You Should’ve Known possess the same identities as their maker. Serious Klein continuously utilizes the jazz and soul influences through instrumentalization, vocals, and cadence that have long provided a pillar to European hip-hop. But through it, he also blends uniquely African sounds that extend beyond his tantalizing accent, and into the usage of instrumental makeup in his production. In that blend lies an indefinability that places his music under the post-genre umbrella and pulls it into a modern, if not futurist light.
Serious Klein’s sound is one that though there are parallels, has never been heard before. And at a time when unique influence and international music are inspiring artists more than ever – whether it be the Caribbean’s influence on Toronto, artists of Middle Eastern descent finding success across the globe, East Asia’s aesthetic establishing footing both visually and musically, or West Africa’s influence on the exploding transcendental direction – Serious Klein is the latest unexpectedly mature musician to merge his cultural background into the global future of hip-hop.
At the end of the day, Serious Klein is right, You Should’ve Known, and so should’ve we.