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k-os – Yes! [Review]

k-os - Yes!

Published in The Toronto Star, April 14th 2009

Toronto, ON – The title is, I’m sure, aimed at the Inner Doubter who has kept Kheaven Brereton from truly flexing his hip-hop muscle since Exit gave us that first, tantalizing taste of possibility seven years ago, but Yes! is the sentiment you’ll feel if you, too, have been waiting for k-os to make a deadly, no-rules rap record.

Here it is, finally. For all the creative, commercial and crossover strides made with 2004’s stellar, genre-blind Joyful Rebellion and 2006’s good, but less inspiring Atlantis: Hymns For Disco, it was impossible to shake the feeling that k-os was underselling his gifts as an MC and beat-maker while overstating the omnivorous tastes and indie-rock connections. On Yes!, the “organic” musical elements and friendly Can-pop studio visitors (Metric’s Emily Haines, Saukrates and Nelly Furtado among them) are rendered subservient to limber rhymes and roughened-up rhythms.

Lyrics make numerous references to a Toronto-centric “downtown” on Yes!, and the catch-all sound of the record falls suitably in line with the pan-cultural earful of styles one might encounter while walking the urban grid. “Astronaut” introduces diced-up tabla and Aphex Twin to the Dirty South, “Eye Know Something” is Timbaland with a Nu Rave buzz and “FUN!” evokes Run-DMC rockin’ references to TTC streetcars and Black Creek over assaultive old-skool beats long before a Tougher Than Leather reference makes it explicit. You don’t have to think about it to dig it, but you’ll dig it more if you do.

For the first time in awhile, though, it doesn’t sound like k-os has thought about it too much.

Top track: “Mr. Telephone Man.” K-os makes a case for himself as a less sadistic, Canadian cousin to bloody-minded U.K. hip-hop auteur Tricky on this juddering, dubwise mash-up of Chuck Berry, New Edition and one-hit electro wonder Paul Hardcastle.

Written by Ben Rayner for The Toronto Star
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