“Why the fuck do you care how much I’m rapping? Why is it so important that Hip Hop is not an attitude and just about how much you rap?”
Back in 2007, k-os spoke to HipHopDX’s J-23 about the response to his genre-bending style from various critics, but it didn’t end there. “Otis Redding was Hip Hop. The Sex Pistols were Hip Hop. Why can’t people just get off of it and realize that there are cats who’ve never rapped a day in their life and are more Hip Hop than everyone on MTV?”
It’s natural for k-os to feel this way. After all, fans and critics have tried to define the artist’s style for about a decade now, one that defies boundaries and fuses genres. His approach, influenced by an array of musical inspiration, may be perplexing to some but it’s compelling enough that he’s still releasing music to fans around the world.
k-os has been said to be an acronym for Knowledge of Self, which explains his introspective lyrical inclinations. “I’m just a man, doing the best I can,” he says on “The Aviator” before revealing bed-time ruminations about whom he is abusing and who his muse is. That muse, as genre bending as the album and the artist might be, often happens to be Hip Hop. On “4, 3, 2, 1,” he adds, “The truth is, long as I keep rhyming, eyes keep shining, soul stays divine.” Later, this is even more apparent as he melodically sings that his “girlfriend is Hip Hop.” A student of the game, he grasps the lost art of the flow, something fluid and inspired. It’s also favorable that the flow doesn’t hide lyrical imperfections; it amplifies his thoughts.
Those thoughts mesh with his production, something that is highlighted throughout the disc. His knack for deriving inspiration from varied styles shows up, as expected. Here, k-os’s production is inspired by Rock, Reggae, Funk and classic Hip Hop. He rhymes over electric and acoustic guitars, piano keys, strings, horns and even telephone noises. There are times when the listener may not think they are listening to a Rap album, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s what allows the album to breathe. However, there are also moments when some songs deviate too far from the rest of the album and are not as strong, like “Eye Know Something,” for instance.
But, that’s the gift and the curse. Being this versatile has many advantages and disadvantages. He can, as he has in the past, craft commercially viable yet outstanding records, like this album’s “Burning Bridges.” Plus, the other aforementioned tracks showcase his skills as an emcee, singer and producer go beyond what many Pop acts can do. Praise he’s received since his debut comes with merit and he doesn’t lose any of it on Yes! This album solidifies that he can do it all, though not always with the same results, always with some flare. He’s unique in many aspects, which may be why folks are trying to box him in, as the opening quote suggests. Where’s the curse? It’s small, but though he has something for most, this versatility can also create a lack of cohesion at times. No matter, whether rapping, singing or producing, k-on shines on Yes! Sure, it’s got no dividing lines but that shouldn’t surprise those who read that article back in ’07. When asked what he had plans for in the future, he replied earnestly. “Honestly dude, no boundaries.” Yes, indeed. No boundaries found here.