k-os has always seemed like a mystery to me; prior to seeing his videos for this album (for the insanely catchy and equally brilliant songs "Crabbuckit" and "Man I Used To Be"), I always pictured him as the little cartoon character from the animated video for "Heaven Only Knows". Something about his music seems very animated, probably because his music is a departure from most modern hip-hop and rap music. k-os knows his genres very well, and as heard on the first untitled track on his first album, it's a blend of "Rock 'n' roll, R&B, hip-hop". And this hasn't been more evident than his sophomore release, the brilliant Joyful Rebellion.
The most noticeable thing about Joyful Rebellion, from the very first pluck of the mariachi-acoustic guitar from “Emcee Murdah”, is that this album is not going to be quite like any other hip-hop album on the market out there. The album contains a very colourful musical vocabulary, ranging from blunt hip-hop (“B-boy stance”), reggae (“Crucial”), rhythm and blues for the new generation (“Dirty Water”), an almost bluesy incorporation of reggae and hip hop (“Crabbuckit”) and, above all, k-os’ radio friendly smart-rap gems (“The Love Song”, “Man I Used To Be”). k-os blends all of these genres and creates an extremely easy to listen to disc, even with the radical change in styles peppered throughout.
k-os is a very talented fellow, and all of the genres that he pulls off on this album are all equally impressive and skilfully, clearly the signs of a very influenced young man. His soft croon on “Man I Used To Be” sounds like something that wouldn’t sound out of place on a 1983 Michael Jackson single, the reggae sound on “Crucial” is brilliantly authentic, with the stab-stab guitar riff, to the thundering drums and pulsing bass, and the acoustic, slow-paced and practically hip-hop opposite “Hallelujah” sounds like a potential Jeff Buckley b-side (yes I’m fully aware that Jeff Buckley already has a song of that title), however when the cellos kick in for a beautiful interlude, and k-os can’t help but sound like an individual. k-os demonstrates his power over 13 songs and practically the same amount of styles of hip-hop fused with a separate genre to create a truly unique song.
k-os’ Joyful Rebellion is indeed a very diverse album, and it never ceases to endure against all odds that it would get tiring after a while. Even the interlude “Clap Ur Hands”, barely reaching a minute and a half, is truly inspired and brilliantly portrayed by k-os, and is equally as enjoyable as all of the three-minute plus songs on the album. But as un-accessible as this might sound to casual pop music listeners, all of the songs have a tremendous and equal amount of rhythm and musical prowess to help them increase their accessibility. “Neutroniks” is a very fast paced and catchy number, with a purely hip hop feel to it, with it’s ascending scale bass and electronic elements scattered throughout (mostly in the drums and the helium backup vocals), and is probably the closes k-os comes to pleasing a mainstream hip hop audience, but is by no means an un-accessible song.
Joyful Rebellion is one of the best hip-hop releases of 21st century, not because of it’s hip-hop elements, but actually quite the opposite. k-os’ diversity that was mostly hinted at on his excellent but more hip-hop debut “Exit” is brought to full realization throughout each of the thirteen songs. A highly recommended listen to fans of the genre, or of pop music, reggae, R&B or, in the end, even funky rock music. It holds a surprise for everyone, and is an album that you’ll have to experience to get the full meaning of k-os’ diversity.
I love K-Os, he puts on a brilliant live show, he's a really nice guy and he's just amazing at what he does. Funny story:
I was at HMV the other night picking up a couple of albums, and as I walk out I hear some weird croaky voice say "yo man". Whatever, it's Toronto, we've got some friendly people, so I look over and to my surprise it's K-os standing there, clearly stoned out of his mind.
Exit is a great album too, albeit a little more straightforward.