The art of making a record is something that is lost on most rappers, but Kevin Brereton is not like most rappers. Brereton, better known as k-os, has single-handedly changed the way hip-hop is perceived. Unlike some of his counterparts, k-os doesn’t write songs about “how many bitches he has” or “how much money he gets,” instead he uses his music as a vehicle to drive his opinions on spirituality, peace and self-reflection. You’ll notice that k-os smartly stays away from overdone political anthems that befell many rappers before him, his delivery comes across as honest rather than cocky and…get this, he curses sparingly. Wow, give this guy the Nobel Peace Prize! k-os gained speed with his critically acclaimed sophomore release Joyful Rebellion, which ranks number 68 on the list of top 100 Canadian Albums. After the good, but inferior follow-up Altantis: Hymns for Disco, is it fair to say k-os’ newest release delivered? Hell Yes!
Yes! is an album that can’t be grouped into any single genre, mainly because so many different genres make an appearance. Take the opener, “Zambony”, for instance. It sets a dark mood as k-os raps overtop of a simple beat and an eerie church hymn. Like the album as a whole, the song gradually gets stronger as it progresses, with many different instruments contributing. The result is a very unique sound that is “not indie rock, but indeed hip-hop” as Brereton reminds us. “Astronaut” opens with Neil Armstrong’s famous moon landing line…something about mankind? The string and horn arrangement add a very subtle, but noticeable depth behind the auto-tuned effects to create a futuristic atmosphere. The second single “Burning Bridges” is easily the catchiest song on Yes! It’s rock n’ roll done hip-hop style and you know what? It works…really, really well. Next is my personal favourite, “Uptown Girl” which features an old Nirvana riff, a snake charmer and Ms. Emily Haines of Metric on back-up vocals. Need I say more?
k-os continues to shake things up as he takes the piano intro from the OC theme and turns it into something credible using it as the foundation for “I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman”. It’s a fun little song about a crush (Natalie?), but its only real purpose is to make way for the lead single “4, 3, 2, 1” where Brereton examines the state of the world and questions what we’re fighting for. k-os continues to experiment with vocal effects and different sounds on “Eye Know Something”, before returning to his roots on “The Aviator”, which is a simple, reflective song where k-os dismisses his haters and sends a message of self-improvement. “FUN!” in all its record scratching glory, is probably the rawest song on the album. k-os points out the lack of legitimacy among today’s young musicians: “you know who you are/fake rock stars/hiding behind guitars” in a track that is, as the titled suggests, quite fun.
Dial tones introduce “Mr. Telephone Man”, which has its fair share of gems: “it’s a long way down/from the fall from grace.” k-os lightens the mood with “Whip C.R.E.A.M.”, a fun pop song where he sounds off on gold digging and Hollywood. It effortlessly transitions into the album’s closer, “The Avenue”. The funky bass line and beat dominate the verse while the simple, badass guitar riff takes over the chorus. Brereton continues to offer brilliant one-liners as he brings his album to a halt: “It’s cause I’m hanging on the avenue/That’s why my girlfriend is hip-hop.”
Tasteful sampling, good collaboration choices and great songwriting make Yes! k-os’ best album since Joyful Rebellion. The way each song rolls into the next is flawless while the freestyles and shout-outs (from Neil Young to Farah Fawcet) that he includes in a couple really give it a raw feeling. k-os has an incomparable rhythm to his voice, he can manipulate words like no one else and he clearly knows how to make a good record. I’m constantly amazed at how he can mix so many genres together in a single song and make it sound great. Yes! has taken back Brereton’s place on his throne as the rightful king of hip-hop.