k-os is a living legend, man.
I see that while watching an Instagram live interview this evening hosted by CBC Music, with him sharing his thoughts on The Fugees‘s The Score. The dude is every bit as eclectic, eccentric, and fiercely rebellious as when he arrived on the scene in the ’90s. I admire how much this man has stuck to making the music he’s wanted to make since day one, and Canadian hip-hop has been made all the better for it.
So I’ve talked about k-os before, and I’m at it again because you can’t pin him down in one song. k-os’s style is damn near unclassifiable as he melds genres together, blending hip-hop, rock, jazz, funk, electro, soul, and so much more to make an organic, original sound. Hailing from Toronto, k-os came up with the city’s burgeoning hip-hop scene and took his time to build on his own terms, frustrated with label politics and the derivativeness of rap at the time. In 2002 he put out his debut, Exit, a strong introduction that had him rapping over guitars and forging a new path. The album fared poorly on sales but got him critical success, letting the world know he was there.
2004’s Joyful Rebellion though, blew the doors off. The album was a commercial success in Canada, establishing k-os as a standout artist, and even garnered some elusive attention in the U.S. I recall hearing a few tracks from this album on the radio back in the day and seeing videos on MuchMusic (think the Canadian version of MTV, which still played music then). The album was ambitious and bold, a different genre and mood on every track. k-os didn’t hold back either, taking a critical view of commercialism in rap, calling out fake emcees left and right and leading into a well-publicized feud with K’NAAN. The album has some of his best known tracks, and for me still ranks highly. I remember bumping this album NON-STOP back in my late teens and early 20s, and introducing it to everyone I knew. I still can’t get enough of it, although it’s a later record that is my all-time k-dash favorite.
The problem with sharing a k-os track is that his songs and records are so wildly different that it’s hard to pick a standout, but “The Love Song” is great. Just listen to how funky and bright this joint is. The strings give off a soaring feeling, the melody is catchy as hell, and k-os’s rhymes are a wild, spacey mishmash of socially conscious rhymes, b-boy brags, and otherworldly musings. It really doesn’t sound like anything you’ve heard before,