Trinidad-born, Toronto-bred Kevin Brereton – better known as K-OS – entered the game in the early 90’s with a single called “Musical Essence.” It was another few years before he returned with “Rise Like the Sun.” The offers from the labels came, but K-OS left, disenchanted with Hip Hop. Over the next few years K-OS was MIA save a few guest appearances with The Rascalz. Then just like he returned in 2002 with his debut LP Exit. As you may guess by the title, his first was to be his last.
Maybe it was the process of making the album, maybe it was the touring, or maybe it was the endless accolades. Either way, a hiatus, be it long or permanent, was not in the cards for K-OS. The emcee/singer/musician is back with Joyful Rebellion, an album that once again defies categorization and pigeon-holing. With a seamless blend of influences covering the spectrum of Hip Hop, rock, r&b, funk, jazz, blues, reggae, ska, Latin and pop. All done with minimal programming, K-OS incorporates both the Vancouver String Orchestra and a ten piece band. K-OS not only writes and produces every song, but he plays guitar (acoustic & electric), and the keys (keyboard, piano, organ).
From the outset of the album, it is clear Joyful Rebellion is operating on a different level than most made these days. Fueled by a string orchestra and climactic guitar stabs K-OS proclaims an “Emcee Murdah.” Despite possessing a completely different sound (reggae meets rock), “Crucial” maintains the vibe and shows off Kevin’s diversity as a vocalist perhaps better than any other song. Things get even better with “The Man I Used To Be” and its MJ inspired percussion. Much like other standouts “Commadante” and “The Love Song,” “The Man I Used To Be” puts K-OS‘ emcee skills and singing talents on full display. Continuing his exercise in diversity, “Crabbuckit” just drips with jazz and funk sensibilities.
Just when you think the album is gonna move further away from hip-hop, K-OS lures you back to ’88 with some classic 808 drums and his anthem “B-Boy Stance.” Remarkably, he is just as successful at the other end of the spectrum. The soft and sullen acoustic effort “Hallelujah” is as inspired as anything you’ll hear. Ironically, K-OS’ best showing as an emcee probably comes when he is joined by rocker Sam Roberts on “Dirty Water.” His flow is indeed H2O.
While he is making big noise in Canada, K-OS may fly under the radar around the globe. Recognition will be there no doubt, but this album should be selling millions. Much like Andre‘s The Love Below, this is a commercial masterpiece despite having stretched the artistic boundaries so far. In today’s age of stagnant, uninspired music it is usually creativity that holds an artist back from success due to the fear of anything outside the box. It is rare that an artist can leap outside the box and be embraced, rebels are usually cast away. This is certainly a joyful rebellion, embrace.