By Falice Chin
Summer is already over, and the Canadian skies are filled with a bitter-sweet atmosphere from coast to coast. While most people are trying to cherish the sun, rapper K-os is flying from city to city promoting his new album. On Aug. 17, Canada’s own K-os released his sophomore album Joyful Rebellion. However, two hits (“Crabbukit” and “B-boy Stance”) had already hit the radio airwaves and topped the charts on Much Music before the CDs hit the stands.
"I’m rebelling to be joyful right now," K-os says. "That’s what ‘Crabbukit’ is about. People like to point out the negative things like ‘oh, you’re on top-ten radio, aren’t you sad?’ but they don’t say stuff like ‘you look great!’"
Artists battling the stereotypes of fame is nothing new to hip-hop. Two years ago, K-os’ debut album Exit turned the hip-hop world up-side-down with down-to-earth, soulful and uncompromising content. The album was critically acclaimed and later won a Source award for International Album of the Year." K-os blessed mainstream music with "Heaven Only Knows," an honest and spiritual song with simple acoustic guitar riffs. It seems that by now, K-os is becoming one of the most well-known rappers from Canada.
"The negative thing with fame is not that people recognize you," explains K-os, "but how it makes you treat the ones you love and the people around you if you start believing in it. You can start seeing yourself as elite, so being grounded like keeping my apartment and hanging around the same people [is important]."
K-os feels that being famous doesn’t mean his life has to go through extreme make-overs.
"Sometimes people think that fame means you have to change who you are," he adds. "But you probably got famous because of who you are! So why change? My freedom is in my own hands"
Like Bob Marley and Wyclef Jean, K-os writes lyrics that continue to speak about his attachments to a greater being. According to K-os, the most important things remain staying spiritual and being aware of personal hardships.
"The key is in what you do," he says. "Are you pointing at yourself or are you pointing at a greater being or God or whatever you call it? The true test is whether or not you can point to something beyond yourself. I couldn’t do what I do if I wasn’t connected to spirituality."
As the title of his new album Joyful Rebellion suggests, K-os is attempting to oppose the things that pull him down with joy. Many times, "rebellion" becomes almost synonymous with negativity, and K-os is trying to show the brighter side of going against the grain.
"People are afraid of being rebellious because they fear that their lives are going to be more sorrowful," he explains. "But the more rebellious I’ve been, the happier I’ve become."
K-os makes it clear that his new album doesn’t speak about rebellion like the idea of anarchy does, but rather encourages his fans to rebel against the negative attitudes of society.
"There’s some heavy shit happening," he exclaims, "and people don’t like to be happy! My focus is not ‘fighting Babylon’ or wearing a black glove; my focus is battling the feelings of resentment, sarcasm, and how people don’t even look you in the eyes when you talk to them. I realize that man is an animal, and although he is evolving, he is still in his animal stage."
Employing music to bring forth his messages, K-os and his style is often described as a fusion of rap, jazz, neo-soul, funk and rock. He hates the idea of being categorized into a neat genre, so he experiments with everything in his studio. However, the fundamentals of his new album respect the four elements of hip-hop culture–graffiti, break-dancing, deejaying and emceeing. This is made apparent in his new music videos where all four elements are featured.
"Many things have strayed from their roots, including hip-hop," he says. "But at the same time, I try to help man progress and go to the next level."
While signed to a major record label, K-os is satisfied that his company supports his experimental side.
"First they tried to treat me like a new artist," he chuckles. "But now they give me full artistic control. I’m actually doing a lot of my own promotions too. Sometimes the people who are new at it can do it better than the people who aren’t because they see things in a fresher way."