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k-os

Yes!

Rating: 3.5/5.0

Label: EMI/Virgin

When Canadian alt-rapper/singer k-os (Kevin Brereton) bursts onto the scene with a new hip-hop record, us Yanks should really stop for a second to take note. With a brand of hip-hop so vibrant, engaging and new, this reviewer finds it to be something of a disappointment to the music community that Brereton isn’t as common as (forgive the un-intended pun) Common. This brings up a worse-off problem wherein the current indie collective isn’t really doing any real seeking-out of new sounds other than looking to the same several locations. All we have to do is turn our ears to the north for a moment and you might grab hold onto something that’ll grab a hold onto you.

Since the release of 2002’s Exit, k-os (an acronym for “Knowledge Of Self”) has almost single-handedly perpetuated a sound in the hip-hop community that still plays as somewhat of a gimmick, bordering on taboo- rock music. Every now and then, rap listeners are given a taste of what lies beyond. It may come in the form of Josh Homme’s (Queens of the Stone Age/Them Crooked Vultures) crushing riffs providing the beat on Lupe Fiasco’s “Hello/Goodbye (Uncool)” or John Mayer joining Jay-Z at Madison Square Garden to play over his latest anthem, “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune).” Rap artists and listeners alike are guilty of letting this disservice continue, possibly out of fear of betrayal or an unspoken battle waged between the genres. Still, the cause for the lack of collaboration remains a mystery to many, but there are few out there who are determined to bring an end to the irrational divide. Lucky us.

Now, that isn’t to say that k-os’ fight to bring these sides together doesn’t have its share of speed bumps. Unlike its poppier predecessor, Atlantis: Hymns for Disco, Yes! comes from a more experimental place. Its playful usage of samples and indie-rock cameos help the album to work on an accessible level, but sometimes come off as pandering. Sadly, in some cases, these ideas were probably best left as ideas and sometimes come off as throwaways. A perfect example comes in the case of two cameos in particular. In the song “Uptown Girl,” k-os utilizes the help of fellow Canadians Emily Haines and Murray Lightburn of Metric and the Dears, respectively. Haines provides an excellent female response on the track, with k-os’ singing skills capable enough to carry the tune. The addition of Lightburn feels a bit tacked on–just as much as the nod to the Dears track, “Lost in the Plot.” Second-up to bat is on-again-off-again pop star Nelly Furtado, going completely unnoticed on the next track, “I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman,” so much so that I’m probably gonna stop talking about her… like everyone else. The song makes thumping usage of a sample of “California” to great pop effect. I wouldn’t be surprised if upon the album’s American release, the track received heavy airplay.

The real message of Yes! lies right in its title: positivity- which comes in abundance here. Songs like the party jam “4 3 2 1” and “Whip C.R.E.A.M.” (containing a great new take on Wu-Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M.”) are simply fun jams with dance beats and B-Boy flows that rival anything going on below the border. K-os talks of past loves, making it in the music business from the past to the present, and just having fun making music. There’s nothing wacky or campy about what he comes with. He’s just making fun, full-bodied music to shake that ass to and maybe this more positive state of affairs wouldn’t be so bad for rap. Hey, A Tribe Called Quest did it! Remember?

This album shows a little less of the B-Boy mentality from Atlantis: Hymns for Disco, but is just as inventive and full of that indie charm he’s never compromised for fame or a bigger check from a larger label. For listeners who have no idea who he is or what the Canuck singer/rapper is up to, this is k-os 101. Enroll and you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. We of the present indie culture might get this CMJ Festival and that Pitchfork update, but after years of what has lately felt like the same old thing… well, I’ll let k-os himself take the wheel here: “…it’s way too easy / Paint by numbers / Them in slumber / No sense of magic / No sense of wonder…

by Cameron Mason
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