Rapper k-os drops some wisdom during his sit-down interview with our host Simon Mohos for the first edition of “The Spit.”
His latest effort, the double album BLack on BLonde, defies genre-boundary lines as he mixes rock with hip-hop. It’s a feat that has been tried by many but k-os’ efforts will succeed where others have failed.
The Toronto-bred artist is not only the biggest music lover you could ever find, but also probably the most intelligent man in business. On “The Spit,” the musical mad scientist dishes on the album, shares his thoughts on the pop radio and why California is like sex.
“They don’t know how to see it as its pure form,” says k-os. “It just becomes something to do.”
We’re glad you’re back k-os.
BLack on BLonde is available now!
K-os has already proven himself as one of the most original hip hop artists, but we ere even more impressed by his ideas about music and knowledge of music history. Especially when he dropped the bomb that Justin Bieber is Black! See for yourself!
The MC, born Kevin Brereton, told MuchMusic that after 10 years of spending time in the recording studio he wants to change things up and “stay immediate” instead.
“I’m not going to make any more albums,” K-OS said on Thursday (Jan. 28) in a press release. “I think we’re just going to drop singles for a couple years and see what happens. If those singles are successful, maybe put out a compilation of the ones that people like and call it an album, like what Elvis and The Beatles did.”
The rapper added that Lil Wayne and Drake, who put more time and effort into releasing mixtapes and singles rather than proper full-length albums, are proof that “you don’t have to make an album” if you’re a musician these days.
Fans will get to decide how much they want to pay when K-OS takes his Yes! Karma Tour across Canada this spring.
The Toronto hip-hop artist is playing 10 shows from April 30 to May 16, and there will be no advance ticket sales. Instead, each show will be free to enter on a first-come, first-served basis.
However, fans are encouraged to make a “Karma” donation once they get inside, with three locations to choose from: a “Karma table,” a cash-only drop box and a third location where they can make a donation to the David Suzuki Foundation.
A bevy of Canadian musicians have banded together against Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative party on a song called “You Have a Choice.”
The tune, sponsored by democracy advocacy group Avaaz Canada, is part of an online campaign urging voters to push for action on climate change through strategic voting at the Oct. 14 federal election.
“Under the Conservative government our country is actively wrecking international progress on climate change,” Avaaz’s executive director, Ricken Patel, said in the release.
“This song is an eloquent reminder that Canada doesn’t have to be this way – it’s our choice.”
The song was written and produced by K-OS and Ian LeFeuvre of indie band The Hundreds And Thousands. Among the artists who contributed to the track were the Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson, Billy Talent’s Ben Kowalewicz, Sarah Harmer, Hawksley Workman, Three Days Grace’s Adam Gontier, Broken Social Scene’s Jason Collett and The Salads’ Darren Dumas.
The song will be issued to radio stations across the country and is also available for download at the Avaaz Canada website here.
Toronto musician k-os is scheduled to appear on Late Show with David Letterman on Feb. 20, the same day his latest album, “Atlantis – Hymns for Disco,” is released in the U.S.
k-os is one of Canada’s most successful rappers, having won multiple Juno Awards and a Source Award. With the release of “Atlantis” and the first single “Sunday Morning,” k-os will be looking for similar success in the U.S.
His appearance on Letterman, however, won’t be k-os’s U.S. television debut. The rapper appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2003.
k-os will likely receive multiple Juno nominations for “Atlantis,” his third album, but if he wins – as it stands now – he won’t be in Saskatoon to accept. He has a performance scheduled in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that night.
It’s part of his two-month tour of the U.S., opening for Gym Class Heroes.
2/17 – Boston, MA – Avalon Ballroom
2/18 – Troy, NY – Revolution Hall
2/21 – Washington, DC – 9:30 Club
2/22 – NYC – Webster HAll
2/23 – Rochester, NY – Douglas Hall – University of Rochester
2/24 – Pittsburgh, PA – Union Ballroom – Duquesne University
2/25 – Philadelphia, PA – Trocadero
2/26 – Norfolk, VA – Norva Theater
2/27 – Jacksonville, FL – Freebird Live
2/28 – Fort Lauderdale, FL – Culture Room
3/1 – Orlando, FL – The Club at Firestone
3/2 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade
3/3 – Nashville, TN – Rocketown
3/4 – Cincinnati, OH – Bogart’s
3/6 – Cleveland, OH – House of Blues
3/7 – Grand Rapids, MI – The Intersection
3/8 – Detroit, MI – St. Andrews Hall
3/13 – Columbus, OH – Newport Music Hall
3/14 – Indianapolis, IN – The Irving Theater
3/15 – Chicago, IL – House of Blues
3/16 – Sauget, IL – Pop’s
3/17 – Lawrence, KS – Granada
3/18 – Minneapolis, MN – First Avenue
3/20 – Denver, CO – Gothic Theater
3/21 – Salt Lake City, UT – Avalon Theater
3/23 – Seattle, WA – El Corazon
3/24 – Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theater
3/25 – Orangevale, CA – The Boardwalk
3/26 – West Hollywood, CA – House of Blues
3/27 – San Francisco, CA – The Fillmore
3/28 – San Diego, CA – Soma
3/29 – Anaheim, CA – House of Blues
3/30 – Tempe, AZ – Marquee Theatre
3/31 – Tucson, AZ – Rialto Theatre
4/1 – Albuquerque, NM – Sunshine Theater
4/3 – Dallas, TX – Gypsy Ballroom
4/4 – San Antonio, TX – White Rabbit
4/5 – Houston, TX – Meridian
4/6 – New Orleans, LA – House of Blues
Could k-os do it again?
That was the big question before the Toronto rapper released his third album, “Atlantis – Hymns for Disco,” last month.
k-os received critical acclaim for his double-platinum selling sophomore release “Joyful Rebellion,” but would he be able to follow that up?
Based on initial sales figures, radio spins and critics’ reviews, the answer is unequivocally yes.
k-os recently spoke to andPOP in Toronto. Watch the interview to find out his thoughts on recording the album, the Elvis Presley debate, the media and much more.
The final tracklisting has been released for k-os’ upcoming album, Atlantis – Hymns for Disco.
The album will be released in October and the first single is already a top download on iTunes. “ELEctrik HeaT – the seekwiLL” is the most downloaded single in Canadian iTunes’s history.
The tracklist is as follows:
2) ELEctrik HeaT – the seekwiLL
3) The Rain
6) Sunday Morning
7) mirror in the Sky
8) born to Run
11) black Ice – Hymn for Disco
13) highway 7
14) ballad of Noah
The Tragically Hip and k-os boast a rare connection.
Both have managed to be mega-successful Canuck acts without having much success in the U.S., which is usually a prerequisite if an artist wants to do well in Canada.
Canadians are much more accepting to their own artists if their friends north of the border approve first.
Take Nickelback as an example. The rock foursome won a Juno Award in 2001 for their album, The State, but 99 out of 100 Canadians were more familiar with the non-existent music of Freddy Kruger than they were with Chad Kroeger’s band’s tunes.
It wasn’t until the band reached number one on the singles charts in the U.S. for their late-2001 hit How You Remind Me that Nickelback became a known act in Canada.
Add soulDecision to the list as well. They were just another Canadian pop act until their fans decided to rally together and vote for them on MTV’s TRL, which didn’t even air in Canada. Suddenly they went from playing high schools to selling out large theatres.
Of course, no one heard from the boys for almost four years, the pop scene changed considerably, and when soulDecision released their Shady Satin Drug album towards the end of last year, nobody seemed to notice. Especially their U.S. fans, probably because the album wasn’t released stateside.
On the other hand, there are too many Canadian artists to list in one article that should be much more successful in their native land than they are. And they all share a common characteristic: little or no U.S. success.
In Essence, Choclair, Kardinal Offishall, Sarah Slean, Kyprios, Stars, Jacksoul, some former Canadian Idol contestants (note: that’s some, not many), Barlow, Low Millions, Jarvis Church, Jeremy Fisher, Stabilo.
Some of these artists aren’t the best Canada has to offer, and some are still managing to make a living off their music in Canada. But all lack U.S. success, and thus the type of fame in Canada that is reserved for the Simple Plans and Avril Lavignes of the industry.
And then in a category of their own: The Tragically Hip and k-os.
The Hip have been able to sell out arenas all over Canada, but in the U.S., they struggle to fill clubs with a capacity near 1000; and a lot of the people in those clubs are usually Canadians on a road trip.
It took Toronto-based rapper k-os two albums before Canadians took notice, and he broke in with his mega-hit single Crabbuckit. He too has had trouble in the U.S., despite a major push by his label which included a 30-minute show on VH1.
So why can the Hip and k-os be considered A-list stars in Canada, when hoards of other deserving artists in the same boat as them ? no U.S. success ? struggle?
The simple answer: I don’t know.
Some potential reasons: dedicated fans (especially true with the Hip), great music that appeals to a broad array of fans (especially true with k-os), and some pure luck.
Paul Telner spoke to Canadian hip hop artist k-os last week while the musician was in Kelowna, BC. k-os visited the Cisco Systems Bluesfest in Ottawa this past weekend for a performance that included crowd surfing hits from his acclaimed Joyful Rebellion disc, including B-Boy Stance, Crabbuckit, Emcee Murdah and Man I Used To Be.
Paul Telner: Is it fair to say you are trying to change hip hop to make it more positive?
k-os: That?s what it?s perceived as from other people but I am just dealing with my own insecurities as a person. Sometimes I felt like there really wasn?t a place for me. I grew up in the suburbs and didn?t really have the ghetto reality that a lot of these people in America had had. I was like, so how come when I turn on the TV, or listen to music, there?s no one who represents me. I think that?s where it started. It didn?t start with me wanting to change things for the sake of just changing it, it started with me just wanting to change stuff because I wanted to find a place for me. So I think yeah it does come off, I am doing this because I am trying to change, but I am really just trying to create a little niche for guys like me.
Paul Telner: How is your tour coming going?
k-os: It can get grueling but you have to appreciate the best moments you have are when your actually on stage with people and performing. We are going across Canada on a nice tour bus, so it?s really a cool summer kind of outing.
Paul: How have the fans been at your shows?
k-os: They?re cool. I think there is a lot of love right now and everything is expanding and things are growing so it?s just a matter of actually embracing all that.
Paul: What was it like for you, trying to get your music to a mass audience and become known? Was it a struggle?
k-os: It was frustrating because you have all these songs and ideas for songs that are written between the people and you. First of all, I have to build up confidence in what I was doing. Was the music I was making able enough to reach people? That?s the hardest part. Putting your mind to the reality of, okay, what I am doing is actually something people should hear. I go into the record store, and go, why would someone want to get my CD? Then it was the process of a lot of good accidents. If you love something, that love comes off of you and people notice that.
Paul: Did you ever stop believing in yourself and the music?
k-os: You never stop believing in the music. But I came to the point, right before I moved to Vancouver, I was in L.A. for 4 months, and I saw the politics and left LA to come to Vancouver because I was sick of the whole industry. I told myself just write songs. It?s what I should have been doing. The first album was just me sitting in a room with my guitar, coming up with all these songs and surprisingly when I stopped caring, and just wanted to write songs, that?s when all these record companies wanted to deal with it. Then I did a performance in Toronto and there was more and more interest. I don?t stop believing in the music. I just get freaked out by the process and the industry. Sometimes that takes a toll on me, especially as an artist, and someone who?s an artist at heart.
Paul: Why do you think hip hop may have taken a darker tone in the last ten years with more explicit lyrics and themes?
k-os: The really inevitable part of it is what happened to rock in the 80s, glam rock. You had all these hair bands like Poison or whatever, Whitesnake, all these guys were in limos and it was about champagne bottles, and TV videos and Motley Crew. Rock music has gone through that stage, that adolescence of being something really organic, in the 70s or 60s with bands like Led Zeppelin, and all of a sudden people try to imitate and be like them, and basically spoofs of that. That?s what happened to hip hop. Hip hop was really organic punk music in the early and mid- 80s. Then you had a whole bunch of bands, a lot of black people from the ghetto that had money off that, or at least made a living. That inspired a lot of people to get into hip hop who might not have that same message but wanted to live that lifestyle of limos and cars. You had glam rock and you had glam hip hop.
Paul: How do you think it all started?
k-os: It all started with Puffy and those guys, and glam hip hop, there really wasn?t that much gangsterism till the West Coast came up, and then there was this battle between the East Coast and West Coast. That ended up with two men dying, Biggie and Tupac, and then that?s when everyone said it took a dark turn. But I think it?s just as dark as when Kurt Cobain shot himself. I don?t think hip hop is any darker than rock music. I just think that people cast Latino and black people in a way that is way more threatening because maybe the ghetto is something that?s mysterious to them. A murder in the ghetto is like really bad and but a murder in the suburbs still retains some kind of like weird thing. You know what I mean? If you ask someone if they would rather be shot in the ghetto or suburbs, which is a stupid question, but people would say the suburbs because of the aura of it.
Paul: How is the media connected to what has happened?
k-os: To me hip hop took a dark turn, but I think more importantly the media has a way of portraying black people and hip hop in a negative light and so when they caught any light at all that they can take these stories and run about these young black men in the ghetto with guns, and present hip hop as that, they did that. But they don?t show black people as intellectual people. They don?t show the rappers who are really saying something. That all becomes alternative hip hop to them. Yes I am a black man, both my parents are black, my mom grew up in the ghetto but I don?t necessarily believe that I have to reinforce those statements to make my hip hop have some strong statement. I think a stronger statement is intellectuality, intellectual reality and I think I had just as much of a struggle, being one of three black people in a white high school, than a kid trying to get out of the ghetto. It?s just a different type of ghetto because you?re dealing with subversive and basically institutionalized racism. It just comes down to stereotypes.
Paul: Do you think hip hop will take a more positive spin in the future?
k-os: I don?t know man, that?s a good question. I go away, and live in my reality and do these interviews where I talk about positive things and then I go on my tour reality on my bus where I am with my friends going across the world, speaking to people and friends about hip hop and then I turn on my TV and its the same shit that has been going on ten years ago! Shit hasn?t really changed in fact its gotten worse. Everything is sexual or violent and the worse part of it is there isn?t even a place for something intellectual. It?s okay to let people be who they are, if they are violent and sexual, then let them exercise their demons, but at least make a little place for something that?s not that. In rock music you got Tom York, Chris Martin and then Ozzy Osbourne, Kid Rock and Pink Floyd. There is room for intellectual. There is classic rock, hard rock, but hip hop, there is only hip hop. Hopefully in the years to come, hip hop will start to divide where there will be classic hip hop, progressive hip hop, and radio stations give audience as much of a variety that they do their rock audiences.
Paul: Your videos are fantastic; tell me about their vision.
k-os: Well I will give that credit to me and my three friends, we are in a group called the Love Movement and we shoot all the videos. It?s basically four minds who get together and go to lunch at a good restaurant and talk for hours about these ideas and then we hone them in so it?s really about four friends doing an art project, kind of like in high school. Micah Meisner is really the director, and the genius behind the thing because he is a filmmaker and he is approaching these videos like mini films and people pick up on that.
Paul: What?s next in your career? Any new albums soon?
k-os: The big task for us right now is penetrating America which is starting to happen. I told myself I will wait and spend my time trying to crack this record across the world, probably to January first of 2006 and then after that just go and chill out. Just relax and start writing. I am really into literature and have been working on this book for a couple of years. Or maybe sit down with my friend Micah, and write some sort of screenplay. I am partying a lot now and on stage a lot and I think I need some time away from that, to come up with new ideas, and new versions of myself so I can write another record.
Paul: Is your music for everyone? Is it something older people and younger people can listen to?
k-os: I think in the beginning this record was targeted for people who were just fed up with the world and felt like they didn?t have a place. By embracing all these different types of music and ideas I was saying maybe it?s not about trying to find one particular place to be at in the world. Maybe we can be comfortable in many different places. I think that now has resonated beyond just a core audience. The beginning of it is just an extension of my first record where I am basically speaking for a lot of people that spend a lot of time in their bedrooms wondering why the world is like this and maybe a bit fearful of social interaction. I think I am one of those misfit guys, or one of those music studio guys who said I am going to come out into the world, and this is my joyful rebellion. I am still rebellious because I know the world is screwed up, but I am happy about where I am right now.
Paul: In past you?ve said that you are not all that comfortable with people recognizing you and staring at you because of your fame. How do you feel about that now?
k-os: Depends on the people. To make a general statement about people coming up to you would be a bit ignorant and also arrogant but I would say it depends on the moment. I try to take people for who they are at the moment. Someone could just stare at me, and it irritates me because I don?t understand why. Just before, this woman from Kenya said to me, why are you staying at a hotel when you could have stayed at my house! It was so genuine. I was like, I don?t really know you! She is like, does that matter? It put me in check, some people show genuine love, and she showed me love and I am like I don?t know you when I should have been like, maybe next time. You have to take things moment by moment and you will be able to deal with reality.
Paul: You are an example of someone making it big and maintaining respect for others no matter what you achieve. Why do you think fame changes and makes people lose a part of themselves for the worse?
k-os: Probably the mythology of the whole star machine and the mythology of how you are supposed to act. We have watched people on TV for years, we watch interviews, documentaries, and we think we know what it’s like to be popular and considered a celebrity. But it?s nothing like what you think. When you get there, it?s like pay as you go. I keep my eyes and ears open and I always remember that I do this because I feel the world is in a certain place right now, and I am going to contribute my part to make something progressive happen. I am not going to say good or bad, because that gets tricky but I will say I want to keep my thing progressive. I don?t think I can be progressive if I get caught up in the illusion of stardom. I think I can enjoy those things, which means being exposed to more people and people treat you better, which of course enhances your life. But if those things were to vanish tomorrow, my music wouldn?t change. I see celebrity as a chance to access people rather than as a chance to be better than people. I don?t think my high school life was insecure. I was on student counsel; I had friends, girlfriends, so the music industry isn?t a thing that I am seeking to make me feel fulfilled. In fact I am kind of coming to this thing trying to deconstruct the whole bullshit about it. So when someone says can I have your autograph, and I say no, it?s not because I don?t want to, it?s because sometimes you need to deconstruct the whole mythology about the whole thing.
Paul: What can fans expect from your live shows?
k-os: It?s our band and we have added some new songs, our sets are longer, some new encores. We are trying to seek perfection with the way that we come across, not to the point where it?s sterile or has no vibe, but we want to give people something that?s on the next level, as far as spiritual. I don?t mean that like a weird evangelist kind of way. But I saw Coldplay and I said if we can come off like that and move people in that way then I think you are giving people a spiritual experience that doesn?t have a real name to it. That?s the best thing musicians can do.
Paul: What do you say to young people who want to get into the music business?
k-os: Music was made to elevate human beings. Music was a gift to us to allow us to go higher. As long as you are doing music for those reasons, to help people take it to a higher level, as long as you care about people?s souls, and you love people then your music will come out in a way that will help people evolve and grow. That?s the broadest way I can say without impressing my doctrine on people. I would say it?s all about helping people grow, making them feel good, not recklessly, where it?s all about the party all the time, but making them feel good so that if they hear the song ten years from now, it will still mean something to them and it might mean something to their children too.
Paul Telner (www.paultelner.com) is a comedian/personality who hosts/created Apauled, the most popular American college comedy show.
In April of 2002, k-os sat on a park bench and explained to andPOP how he had no plans for a second album.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. I could be walking around here and get hit by a bus,” he said.
Two and half years later, the man born Kevin Brereton is back with that unanticipated sophomore release, “Joyful Rebellion.”
k-os spoke with andPOP recently in Toronto. Watch the interview to hear him talk about the reasoning behind the second album, his expected success in the U.S., winning a Source Award, appearing on Kimmel, and much more. Will he be releasing a third album? Watch and find out.