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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

K-OS - JOYFUL REBELLION 

Album: Joyful Rebellion
Artist: K-OS
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My friend K-OS is usually described as being 'Toronto Bred' or a 'Toronto MC', but luckily for us, that's not quite true. The Trinidad-born (see, even I want to label him) music maker actually hails from Whitby, 20 minutes east of the T-Dot on the 401. Thanks to Ack's days running shite out in Whitby at McGraw-Hill, I have a pretty good idea that it's not ghetto fabulous like Rexdale or Jane & Finch. It's the suburbs, and that helps to understand the creation of a 'rapper' like K-OS. K-OS certainly loves and respects hip hop and infuses his music with the hip hop essence, but calling him an MC doesn't really capture what he's about.

Like his first album, Exit, Kevin Brereton's (rap reviews 101, drop the real name) sophmore album Joyful Rebellion is all over the musical map and back again. It contains elements of hip hop, reggae, r&b;, rock and pop. These elements were present on Exit, but he's kicked them into a higher gear here. He still raps, which is a good thing as he's quite good at it, but he's singing with abandon now. When Exit dropped in 2002, the idea of an 'MC' rapping and singing over tracks that contained as much acoustic guitar as they did breakbeats was still somewhat revolutionary. But it's 2004 now, and after Andre 3000 charmed the pants off uptight white people everywhere, you could rap on a track consisting of tapdancing and the tuba and no one would bat an eye. Not that it matters to K-OS, he decided to do his own thing long ago, and it certainly pays off with the ecclectic shine of Joyful Rebellion.

EMCEE Murdah sets the tone for the rest of the album. K-OS raps over acoustic guitar warning of the fatal threat money poses to MC's. I've had the chorus of this song in my head for days. When I first heard the beat for Man I Used To Be, I thought it was a Beat It remix. Reading the liner notes, it seems K-OS is a big fan of the crazy king of pop and wrote the song for Michael and himself. I love this jam though, the 80's style drums and K-OS sing/rap mix makes me want to bust out the slippers and dance in Marios basement. If the bassline and handclaps of Crabbuckit don't get you feeling good you might perhaps be dead. There's very few straight ahead hip hop songs on this album. B-Boy Stance is the closest with its booming drum track constructed from Funky Drummer and PE's Rebel Without A Pause. Hallelujah is some dead on roots reggae and the Duet with Sam Roberts, Dirty Water isn''t my favorite track on the album, but it isn't terrible.

K-OS avoids the sophmore jinx here by sticking to the formula he established on Exit and even taking it up a level or two. I believe he's doing the kind of music he really believes in and the results so far have been excellent. But I just hope the spirit of hip hop will remain a part of his musical blueprint. There's a fine line between ecclectic hip hop and messy crap. This quote from his Capitol Records bio makes me a little nervous 'Much like Lauryn Hill, the artist he's often compared to, this album is a testament to his rare ability to harmonize and emcee, ignoring any creative straitjackets imposed on him by narrow rap or R&B; categorizations. ' Lauryn Hill's first album was amazing, but I think she wigged out a little and is taking herself far too seriously now. Who knows if she'll ever put out another decent album. In the end my opinion doesn't matter much, and K-OS can make whatever kind of music he wants. He's put out two great albums so far, let's hope it continues.

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