“If you have a voice you should use it,” says Serious Klein. That’s what he’s been doing since the tender age of 12 years old, writing explosive rap music that speaks to his lived experience as a young German-Ghanaian artist. Since releasing his first mixtapes back in 2010, he’s performed with Alicia Keys, worked with DJ Khalil (Eminem, A$AP Rocky, Drake), and cemented himself as one of the most inventive players in the German hip-hop game.
The production on a Klein song is always unmistakable. It has a rich and textured feel, preferring to layer on more instruments and create an atmosphere, rather than just spit over the same beat for three minutes. This comes from a childhood love for soul music. Klein grew up in the post-industrial Ruhr region of north-west Germany. He was raised on a diet of Tupac, but also the classics coming from his mother; legends like Luther Vandross, Kool & The Gang, and Salt-N-Pepa.
“I started making music after hearing a Luther Vandross CD my mum was listening to, the one with ‘Never Too Much’ on,” explains Klein. “That was the first time I really dived into music and got influenced and inspired. I started writing when I was 12 and started recording when I was 14.”
His lyrics are poetic and political, and his latest single, “On a Goat”, is a trap-inspired beast with a rapid-fire Kendrick-like flow. Klein writes about what he calls “grown-man topics about the future and where I go in life” and what it’s like to be in his shoes. In 2017, he wrote a heartbreaking song about the passing of his father.
“I’m all about pushing the roots and the movement of being black in Germany,” he says. “Sometimes it gets a little bit difficult, but I think it’s one of the most important things for someone in my position to talk about the things you go through and your everyday life... You should use your voice to give back to the community and everyone that’s around you.”
Though born in Germany, Klein feels more connected to his Ghanaian heritage. When he’s in Ghana, everything seems to inspire him. Afrobeats and Ghanaian rhythms certainly influence, but it's the little things that spark off his art: the weather, the skin, the hair. It’s his roots. “I love everything about Ghana: the culture, the community, the art – it’s incredible… You can get inspired by a wall, by the way people behave,” he says. “When I can shoot a music video in Ghana, I will do it.”
Music videos are a huge part of his artistic identity. When a visual drops for a Serious Klein track, you know it’s going to be an unquestionable work of art. Last year’s “Voodoo Money” came with jaw-dropping cinematic imagery that ranged from head-shaving to baptisms to pianos engulfed in flames. “It goes hand in hand,” says Klein. “If you do a cool song you’ll always think about the visuals. Everything works perfectly together.”
Despite the success, the albums, and the sold-out tours, Klein still often faces the same question from both interviewers and critics: why did he choose to rap in English? In an insular scene like German hip-hop, where he’s surrounded by artists almost exclusively rapping in their native tongue, it’s even more pronounced.
“[English is in] my roots. In Ghana, English is our second language,” explains Klein. “People say, 'I think your music is cool and tough, but I think it would sound better in German.' But I grew up with English music, so I always knew I wanted to rap in English,” he continues. “I want to reach the whole world, not just Germany. I want to be international.”
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