k-os has taken a step back to the basics on his fourth album Yes!
While his last release, Atlantis: Hymns For Disco, found the hip-hop artist navigating the waters of soul, rock and folk, the new disc is characterized by thoughtful yet lighthearted rhymes underscored by warm melodies — something closer to the feel of his second album, Joyful Rebellion.
Speaking at the Second Cup across from MuchMusic on Toronto’s Queen Street West, k-os says the return to form came from being in transition. Finding himself between labels (he jumped from EMI to Universal) and cities (living between Toronto and Vancouver), he got back into the simple and comforting craft of making beats.
“I often do that when I’m trying to figure stuff out,” he says. “And that was the whole thing that sparked the album’s sound, just the fun-ness of getting on my drum machines that were collecting dust.”
There’s a refreshingly playful atmosphere running through Yes! Case in point, the track I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman, which features Nelly Furtado and Saukrates, singing and rhyming overthe indelible piano linefrom the track California by Phantom Planet, which is best known as the theme song for the popular TV series The O.C. He first heard the Rich Kidd-produced beat at Saukrates’s studio a couple years ago and decided he had to use it.
“I was like ‘dude, you gotta let me rap on this,’” k-os says. He knew it’d be a hit while DJing. “I did a party at Whislter one time where I ran it and the crowd just got right into it, like right away.”
While Portman isn’t mentioned in the song, the actress is symbolic to k-os.
While he loves the acknowledgement and attention he receives in this country, “I think part of my soul wants to soar outside of Canada, and Natalie Portman and California represents going west. ‘Go west, young man.’ Or go south, in this case.
“When I see her work, she’s amazing. But the reference is more about wanting to step out of the bubble and get into new realities, which is what I’m about.”
As longtime followers know, k-osstands forknowledge of self and Yes! does feature a healthy dose of introspection typical of his previous work. The self-reflection comes to a peak on the song Burning Bridges, which he insists is more about redefining himself than cutting people from out of his world.
“There’s a lyric on that song that goes, ‘That’s why I’m back in the building, to burn the flame of the fame I was building.’ I think every record is an opportunity to re-establish your persona,” he says.
“Sometimes I’ll see some of the things that I bought in the past, or the clothes in my closet and think, who is that guy? I start to see that I’m separating myself from the person that I was.”
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