TMN Tinnies Spotlight: Andrew Klippel talks Genesis Owusu
Last month The Music Network announced the winners of its annual business awards, TMN Tinnies. This week TMN’s contributing editor, Christie Eliezer, shines a spotlight on five of the winners. Up first is Artist Development Award, won by Andrew Klippel for Genesis Owusu. The 2021 TMN Tinnies were supported by Humm Events, iHeartRadio Australia, Ingrooves, TikTok and Vevo.
On a Sunday morning in 2016 – April 24, to be specific – Andrew Klippel’s wife played him a track she found on triple j Unearthed by an unknown rapper names Genesis Owusu.
It so happened he was playing that day in Canberra at Groovin’ The Moo, so the couple made a fateful three-hour dash from their Sydney home to catch the set.
The 18-year-old journalism student, brother of rapper Citizen Kay, was on the midday slot.
“There was no one there,” recalls Klippel. “No one. They were still setting up.
“He came on and he was the same performer as he is now, absolutely incendiary.
“He was rocking that stage like it was a stadium show. I hadn’t seen anything like it.”
He decided then and there to work with him.
The formal agreement would not take place for another 12 months. But on the drive back to Sydney, Klippel was formulating a strategy.
“The story was always going to be about the music, so the music had to be good,” he explains.
The founder and A&R of Ourness Music Management and Publishing, Klippel emerged in the ‘90s in bands as the chart-topping Euphoria, Elastic and A.K. Soul and wrote/produced Human Nature, Marta Sánchez, Katie Noonan and Jocelyn Brown.
The first step was to get Ghana-born Canberra raised Genesis (real name: Kofi Owusu-Ansah) to write with Hiatus Kaiyote members Simon Marvin and Perrin Moss.
In conjunction with Kobalt Music Publishing, Klippel also arranged for the rapper to write and record with Callum Connor from Anderson .Paak’s Free Nationals in Los Angeles for ‘Wit’ Da Team’ and ‘Good Times’ in 2018, producing his first breakthrough songs.
Their global streaming figures gave the impetus to make the debut album Smiling With No Teeth one with international appeal and which avoided hip-hop clichés.
Klippel, as producer, put together a customised band with Kirin J. Callinan on guitar, Michael Di Francesco aka Touch Sensitive on bass, and World Champion’s Julian Sudek on drums.
Klippel played keys and co-wrote ‘Don’t Need You’ which generated 1.3 million streams.
For six sweltering days, the musicians jammed in Sudek’s bedroom-sized home studio in Bondi, sometimes for 10 hours at a time.
The approach created a record that was musically hard and unique, and served as a bedrock for its themes of racism and depression.
‘Cuz somehow my actions represent a whole race / it’s hard to move different when your face is our face, went ‘I Don’t See Colour’.
Elton John is ranked among his fans.
When the record won triple j’s J Award, music director Nick Findlay noted: “From early in his career, Genesis Owusu made it obvious that he was an artist that you could not pigeonhole.”
He had four wins at the 2021 ARIAs – album, hip hop release, independent release and cover art.
Klippel won producer of the year with Dave Hammer.
From the start, Klippel realised that some of the rapper’s stances – his refusal to be painted into a stylistic corner, his insistence at being the outsider and being the sensitive new age guy – could have equally worked against him.
“I had to make a choice early on to amplify his values and his vision.
“Kofi’s primarily a poet, and he comes from that perspective.
“It was a definite collaboration working closely with him, and my contribution was bringing well-formed musical concepts to his vision.
“But I had to make the decision, as a business partner, to get on board with who he was, as opposed to change anything of his vision.”
In January Owusu is touring the US, where his streaming figures are almost parallel to that of Australia’s and where he’ll stay for most of the year making his next record, as well as Europe.
Setting up relationships with streaming services in Africa and Asia is also in the plan.