From revealing his "Musical Essence" in 1993 to proclaiming his tendency to "Rise Like The Sun" in 1996, Whitby-native Kevin Brereton, aka K-OS (Knowledge Of Self), has more than made a name for himself in the Northern region. As he abided by and watched his peers like Choclair, Mathematik, Kardinal Offishall, Monolith, etc. establish their identities on a growing Canadian urban music scene, many wondered if this socially-responsible MC had faded into obscurity after rumors continued to surface concerning the release of his debut album, but were never fulfilled; until now. Prayers were answered recently as the first single, "Heaven Only Knows," finally made its way onto MuchMusic's Rapcity early 2002 and fulfilled the high-expectations that had been thrust upon him.
So how fares the rest of EXIT? From the jump, the energetic "Fantastique" sets the LP off on a positive vibe with K-OS testing the waters of production and raising the bar higher for beat-makers everywhere. "Fantastique" also serves as the perfect opening track as it summarizes what K-OS is about—diatribes against MCs "claiming to be hardcore," an appreciation for positive conscious living, and old-school hip-hop executed with innovation. This neck-snapping break beat music-with-a-message is relived (but not repeated) further on tracks like "Freeze," "Follow Me," or "The Anthem," where he wails on the chorus: I won't fear anymore / hip-hop is back for sure / 'cause it took our love away / now, she's come back to stay.
What is impressive about EXIT, however, is K-OS' ability to flawlessly branch out into other genres without removing the unity between the songs; each song flows into the next as he also experiments with alternative / soul blends on "Patience," "Call Me," and "Superstar Pt 2," (on a side note, I have heard many refer to this track as a Radiohead-type song, although I personally am not familiar with their music); Reggae Babylonian-inspired ideology on "Superstar Pt 1;" and even combine them all on "Masquerade," or "Higher." A change of pace is what follows on the final track, a remix of "Heaven Only Knows," which utilizes the same Isley Brothers "Footsteps In The Dark" sample that Ice Cube popularized with "It Was A Good Day."
Under just 50 minutes (49:04 to be exact), EXIT is definitely one of the best releases to come out of the often forgotten coast. Yes, there are flaws, but they have nothing to do with the quality of the songs and do not detract from the LP overall. For one, his message comes across a bit too simple and reeks of East Coast elitism (see "The Anthem," where he states: We can break it down like this or we can break it down like that / they stole hip-hop, come on, let's take it back / to East Coast stomping / romping), which, one could argue, is a view that ironically hinders the progression of our beloved culture.
K-OS' lack of justifiable arguments, nonetheless, can't be faulted as it is consistent and prevents him from being seen as a hypocrite; he knows what he wants, at the least, and shouldn't be blamed for offering a refreshing perspective. In addition, one remarkable quality that K-OS could boast of possessing is that he can teach and not preach, thus, better reach an audience who, I presume, he would want to reach the most: an easily impressionable youth (although I doubt the supporters of the "negative" brand of hip-hop he condemns would feel this). Finally, this album's strong point is its length—rather than throw in filler-track after filler-track, EXIT showcases the best that K-OS has created in the lab.