k-os breaks down Views From The Stix & talks about what it’s like to work with Kaytranada
Toronto, ON – On May 20, k-os released his second ever mixtape titled Views From The Stix. The project is 15 tracks long, and consists of freestyle verses that k-os recorded over demos he made at his family home north of Whitby, Ontario. It’s arguably k-os’ most experimental body of work to date.
The Stix introduces us to the newly formed KEVIN duo of k-os and Kaytranada (aka: Kevin Brereton and Louis Kevin Celestin), along with a list of production and features exclusively provided by Canadian artists (Boi-1da, Saukrates, Kardinall Offishall, Choclair, King Reign and Shad).
While the tape’s title is a reference to Drake’s recently released VIEWS album (which was originally set to be titled Views From The 6), The Stix isn’t actually even about Drake. It’s about the alternative lane of Canadian hip-hop that k-os has paved over the years.
“The Stix” is a term used in association with suburbia; the area away from any major city or metropolis. And that’s exactly the breed of hip-hop k-os has been making over the years. It’s a brand of music so far removed from the pilfered OVO sound that’s (unfortunately) become almost synonymous with “the 6ix.”
“Kaytranada is one of the only producers whose work I don’t mess with. I don’t add instrumentation or even re-arrange what he sends me. I just jump on it and eat the beat… it awakens the beast. Which is why I want to make more music with him. ”
HipHopCanada: Tell me about how you and Kaytranada initially met and decided to work together. I know he did that remix of “Crucial” way back in like 2012. What led to the official formation of KEVIN?
k-os: This girl friend of mine texted me one day like, “Don’t get me wrong. I like the music you make but this Kaytranada remix of ‘Crucial’ is the best thing I’ve ever heard!” I was like “Kaytra WHO? Remix? Who’s Remixing Crucial?” I had no idea what she was talking about. So I checked out his SoundCloud and was impressed with the remix and the music he was making. When I signed to Dine Alone they were very aware of that remix as well. My dude Bryan Columbus at the label introduced us on e-mail. I saw Kaytra’s email addy and realized his name was Kevin as well. He was very cool and I could tell also highly intelligent. He sent me some beats not too long after that. It was mammoth – like 30 beats, and banger after banger. I couldn’t believe how consistent he was and how good all the beats sounded real loud. I remember just shaking my head in my bedroom like… “WOW … this kid!” The three songs that ended up on the Stix tape we did are all from that very first batch of beats. A couple months later I hit him up saying, “YO! Lets start a group and call it KEVIN!” And he genuinely loved the idea. He sent me more beats and truth be told I haven’t even touched those. So here we are.
HipHopCanada: What is your work process as a duo like?
k-os: There is no work process! Kaytranada is one of the only producers whose work I don’t mess with. I don’t add instrumentation or even re-arrange what he sends me. I just jump on it and eat the beat… it awakens the beast. Which is why I want to make more music with him.
HipHopCanada: The wordplay of “The Stix” is so proper because it seems to be a nod to what your M.O. has been for all of these years. You’re unconventional. You’re not “the 6ix” because you have your own lane and that’s what you’ve always done. So what was the approach to making this tape?
k-os: I am a suburban kid. The city is inspiring and electric, though. Nothing is more mesmerizing to me than city lights at night. I love it. However, sometimes living in the city makes people too aware of their social standing – what people think about them and where their careers are headed. I could care less about that nonsense. WHO CARES? I became an artist so I could “do me” regardless of the circumstances. Not follow others and wait for the new slang word. You can create your own culture if you really believe in yourself and your art. Because whatever you believe comes to be. My approach with this tape is just to always put HIP-HOP on a pedestal. A lot of people think rap music is just some kind of disposable turn up soundtrack. Toronto had a rich West Indian, very black hip-hop scene in the late ’90s. Most of the kids in “the 6” right now don’t particularly relate to that culture. In a way they have reacted to that Golden Era by ignoring it. BUT such is life – the most unconfident people will always band together. They will bond over almost ANYTHING to feel confident and cool. Even a picture of a toilet seat. Pop culture is usually fuelled by a rebellion where the youths reject the music of their parents. Fact is, you can ignore and rebel against daddy to ad nauseam. But he still made and helped conceive you. Eventually when you get over “asserting your independence” you will realize that daddy was cooler than you all along. Isn’t life ironic?
HipHopCanada: This tape is brilliant because it is 100 percent Canadian. What was the idea and importance behind that? And how did the collaborations all come about – especially for that “Boyz II Men” remix?
k-os: This is a great question but it sort of pisses me off. If an American rapper made a 100 percent American mixtape with all Americans featured on it, would it be noteworthy or “a thing”? Most likely not. Americans are made in America and their people eat it up. This is what makes America great. They definitely love themselves. Even if it’s just superficial, it’s a start. The truth is that it’s harder to make something original in Canada and have people pridefully ingest it, than to just copy and jump on America’s hip-hop bandwagon. This is because Canada is a new country with two generations of Black culture versus America’s 400 plus. So maybe you’re right. There could be a brilliance in gathering the Canuck homies together to make something that people consider “cool” and cutting edge. Wait… NO! Because this is what Saukrates and Kardinal and Choclair have been doing for years. They made the game. Those dudes are all rap stars in their own right and have sold hundreds of thousands of records! I just called them up and they ate microphones. King Reign and Shad the same – they the homies. They are the newer Yung Legends of the Underground. I’ve known every single one of these guys since we were just boys.
HipHopCanada: Talk to me about the Kanye comparison on “On My Kanye”. Because I’ve definitely heard people refer to you as “Canada’s Kanye” on multiple occasions.
k-os: Thats funny … I consider myself more like “Canada’s Pink Panther.” When the Fugees came out people compared me to Wyclef and Lauryn. When the Black Eyed Peas came out people compared me to Will. When Kanye came out people compared me to him. Anytime a dark skinned black person comes out and injects pop culture with originality and “a vision,” people lump them all together. GTFOH with that Basic Bob outlook. SMH. There are many of us and we are all different and we are coming to make hip-hop conscious again so WATCH OUT! I love Kanye … I had to make a song in his honour. I hope he hears it and knows he’s loved by so many even though some throw hate on that dude like a curse. Stop it.
HipHopCanada: I heard you recorded this tape at your family home near Whitby, Ontario. Why did you opt to do that? And what was your set up there like?
k-os: My brother is a potato farmer. He’s a Rasta and a conscious yoot. I love being around him and his fam. It’s so pure and ITAL. I also have two new German Shepherd pups and watched them grow up on the property. I would just stare out the window and watch them play fight, watch sunsets and sunrises and enjoy the silence. When I caught a vibe, I’d plug the mic straight into [the] computer or most times just rap into the iPod headphones. No lie … Most of this tape was made with me spitting verses into the headphone microphone and recording it all into GarageBand. That’s it … song done. Then on to the next.
HipHopCanada: What was your favourite track to do for this tape, and why?
k-os: Probably the song “Same Ole Purple Drank.” That was a beat my friend Adrian Gough gave me about six years ago. He and Cirkuit produced it. Brilliant dudes. It’s just a simple pop song. But I love making melodical pop songs that have the possibility of getting a message or something of depth on the radio. It’s exciting to try to change the radio instead of catering to it. That’s always been my M.O. Change the radio. Break the stereo…type.
Interview conducted by Sarah Jay for HipHopCanada
Editor’s side note: I still have Views From The Stix on repeat. You should probably go check it out right now.