K-OS may be a name unfamiliar to many, but this is an artist that needs to be heard. A triple threat of sorts (emceeing, singing, producing) is much of a rarity in a world of hip-hop where artists are less relevant than in other genres. But the Trinidad-born and Toronto hailing Kevin Bretton may be the most refreshing thing to hit the scene in the past few years. His debut LP, Exit, was missed by many and misunderstood by others. But it’s not as if K-OS is out to please those who don’t appreciate good music. His latest endeavor, Joyful Rebellion, blends the gamut of ska, jazz, Latin, blues, pop, rock, funk and… oh yeah… hip-hop, by incorporating a ten piece band and employing the Vancouver String Orchestra. And by the way, the kid plays acoustic and electric guitar as well as the keyboard, piano and organ. Joyful Rebellion is what many who strive to become an artist should take note of.
The diverse landscapes and influences are evident throughout Joyful Rebellion. K-OS switches lanes gracefully without disrupting the flow of the album, yet does just enough to keep from being pigeon-holed into a certain category. “Emcee Murdah” showcases the talent K-OS possesses. With K-OS lamenting that “hip-hop’s not dead/it’s really the mind of the emcee,” the guitar strumming and strings orbit around his easy to digest vocals. K-OS breezes through “Crucial” sounding rather beautiful and as if he feels every last guitar pluck and vocal harmony. The masterful 80′s jam, “The Man I Used To Be”, wreaks of old school Michael Jackson as K-OS treads water as trying to go back to the man he once was before a relationship and it just sounds so damn good. K-OS is what the likes of Nelly and Ja Rule wish to become when they find themselves “crooning” on songs. By understanding the range of his voice, he knows exactly how far to stretch his voice without ruining the track. Many vocalists don’t understand that even the greatest artists (i.e. Prince) need not have the greatest singing voices to make beautiful music. It’s a shame that K-OS understands this more than your average R&B singer. He has developed into a significant triple-threat whose knowledge of music allows him to take his craft to another level. Throughout the album, he showcases his talents with no drawbacks. “Crabbuckit” just feels so good and may have the listener stomping their feet as K-OS flexes some more of his musical muscle both musically and lyrically. For those of you that aren’t quite ready for the plethora of musical soundscapes, K-OS delivers the head rocker “B-Boy Stance” and preserves his love for hip-hop. The magnificent vibes of “The Love Song” projects the aura of the artist and gives you more than a glimpse into the mind of a diverse artist. Musically, Joyful Rebellion is more than what the average mind can handle. It intermingles several long forgotten genres of music into one album that many should be able to appreciate.
Sure there are moments that may go over the head of many listeners. “Hallelujah” may be a little too preachy for a listener new to the sounds of K-OS and “Dirty Water” may be a little more Coldplay than Nas, but it still achieves so much for somebody who looks for a little more than your average hip-hop album. Unfortunately many listeners aren’t ready for K-OS has to offer.
Because of all of the blends of musical culture, Joyful Rebellion may suffer for not being able to be labeled. As strange as it may sound this holds true
for the short attention span of this generation’s hip-hop heads. Too many styles may end up becoming lost and showing up way under the radar of many listeners, which is a shame because this truly is what an album that utilizes several styles should sound like. Many artists have tried to sound good doing something that K-OS does absolutely effortlessly and very well. Maybe many artists who are thinking about singing or self-producing your records should take note of this great artist and understand what it takes to be more than just a rapper or a producer. To achieve greatness one has to become an artists and that is exactly what K-OS strives to be and hopefully the public will one day appreciate that with open arms.
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