Review Summary: One of the most musical rap albums created.
I don’t think k-os wants me writing this right now. In an interview with Pop Matters, he smacked down critics, calling them hypocritical and sort of unworthy of tearing apart someone else’s music if they aren’t even making it themselves. He addressed the fact that there are some critics that make music of their own, but more often than not critics are simply critics. That interview taught me a lot about the man behind some of the most musical hip-hop I’ve ever heard. I learned that k-os loves music, but that’s not why this album exists. He wants to start a revolution. While he holds the same ideals of many inspirational rappers, namely black rights and telling the true story, your story, k-os takes the old phrase “rock is dead” and applies it to hip-hop. K-os said this about Joyful Rebellion, a statement that truly defines this album and his musical philosophies.
There's no limit; there are no rules. The rule is not to be cool. People end up following the rules (too much). I tried to not have rules on this record. [All] music that I ever loved, I just put it in a pot and tried to absorb from it. I mean that's what love does; it takes you beyond the grasp of limits. If you love music then it's not about hip-hop, rock, or punk rock, it's about coming up with all kinds of music. Perhaps that's what the joyful rebellion really is, being happy about that process. Rebelling against only liking one kind of music or having only one kind and music and that's your lifestyle.
As k-os stated, this is so much more than just a hip-hop album. Sure, he raps, and there are electronic beats galore, but the musical styles ranging from flamenco to reggae to pure pop make for something much broader. Drawing influence from The Roots, k-os brought in a live band to create his music, in which he plays guitar and piano. While some of the lyrical messages are very serious, almost prophetic, the music is truly joyful. With this original, unheard of style of rap and the joyous music, Joyful Rebellion is the perfect album name. The opening track, Emcee Murdah
demonstrates that something completely new is about to take place. The track features a simple guitar melody infused with dramatic strings and a laid back, simple drum beat accented with rim clicks. K-os’ message becomes apparent immediately, with lines like “Money and fame will lead to emcee murder.” After a short rap, he launches into the chorus where he sings and shows he has a fantastic singing voice. If k-os wanted to, he could create an entirely singing album.
The album continues excellently with something completely different. Crucial
is a completely authentic reggae jam. The live band makes their first appearance and one of their best, with a great guitar melody and bassline. K-os sings about the oppression of his race, which he felt heavily growing up in a predominantly white Canadian town. The lyrics dabble a bit in spirituality, speaking of a higher ground and salvation. K-os sings throughout the entire track, and proves once again that he is a fantastic singer. A guitar solo leads the song out, and leaves Crucial
feeling like a full band’s track, not one coming from a rapper. Once again, the album takes a brand new turn on the next track, Man I Used to Be
. It represents the first true hip-hop song on the album, but it also exudes a Michael Jackson style about it, especially through the singing in the chorus. The drum beat and various samples make the song immediately catchy and accessible. While the song revolves around one chord progression the entire time, so many different voices, including a funky guitar and more dramatic strings play on the chord progression that it never gets old. The drums play very high in the mix, which gets annoying, especially on the open high hat, but there is so much to focus on in the track that it doesn’t really matter. Man I Used to Be
is a fantastic track that shows immense potential from k-os to create some of the catchiest songs around.
Each track on Joyful Rebellion brings something new to the table. The groovy, late night jazz club feel from Crabbukkit
doesn’t necessarily belong on an album with the futuristic, spacey hip hop of Neutroniks
, but somehow each track works in their own ways. If it weren’t for the lyrical content of the album, Joyful Rebellion would have absolutely no cohesion to it at all, as so many different styles come out on the album. Commanbante
pulls in some acoustic flamenco guitar that k-os raps brilliantly over. A strange mix, yes, but it still works. The slow ballad Hallelujah
is another track of all singing, which again is brilliant. B-Boy Stance
is certainly the most typical rap song on the album, with an aggressive drum beat and simple samples. Joyful Rebellion takes all the standards and stereotypes of modern hip-hop music and throws them out the window. K-os speaks his mind on the current music industry, which almost made him quit music forever after his debut album Exit, and the current rap scene as well. In short, this is one of the most musical hip-hop albums of the 21st century, and it proclaims some excellent messages on the side. K-os produced a masterpiece with this album, not producing a single bad track and many superb ones.
Man I Used to Be
The Love Song