K-Os conducted by Kendra Desrosiers  

K-Os Interview

March 2007

K-OS has always been an indefinable artist since his 2003 release of Exit to his more recent work, Atlantis: Hymns For Disco. His sound floats between Rap and R&B and tiptoes around the outskirts of Acoustic and Alternative Rock. Only a trained ear can rock with K-OS and seamlessly flow through his albums front to back amidst the many styles and not miss a note. This Canadian native is slowly gaining crossover appeal with his flow that dances along the edges of eccentricity and artistic greatness with his ethereal references and criticism of mainstream rap and society and it will only be a matter of time until his work enters Billboard's heavy rotation.

MVRemix: So what have you been working on?

K-Os: Nothing man we're just on the tour bus. We just left Jacksonville and we're on our way to Ft. Lauderdale so we've actually been on tour for the last month or so.

MVRemix: K-OS is an interesting name, any particular meaning?

K-Os: Oh K-OS yes, stands for knowledge of self and that's just something I came to over time. I always had the name K-OS and I was just in the elevator one day and it came to me that K dash O-S could mean knowledge of self and that was like maybe '98 so that's been the meaning of my name for a minute.

MVRemix: Any reference to Black Star?

K-Os: No, you know what I found out that name after I called myself that years later and I was like its so weird you know that K-OS definition...what was the name of that song?

MVRemix: Knowledge Of Self Determination (K-OS Determination).

K-Os: Again when I would do things like that it would just make me think that I picked the right name.

MVRemix: Your music seems to breach many genres, how would you describe your sound?

K-Os: I would describe my sound as like renaissance and that's a word that's not used too much in Black music but classic. I just like classic music whether it's like Bob Marley, whether it's KRS-One whether it's Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone whether its Otis Redding I like classic music and I try to take those elements of the classic music in my different songs. So renaissance; things that are classic at different time periods around the world.

MVRemix: So who would you say are your different idols and musical inspirations?

K-Os: Everyone from A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, Outkast right back to like Otis Redding and Michael Jackson and even people like... bands, like Rock bands like Nirvana, The Strokes, a lot of indie rock bands too.

MVRemix: How does Canadian Rap differ from that of American?

K-Os: Canada is just a lot younger, it's a younger nation. Hip Hop and American Black music has had like 400 years of history, Canada you know we're pretty much, I'm pretty much the first generation born in Canada. Most people's parents in Canada were born in the West Indies or like in Russia or in America. People in America are like four generations so you guys have had more time or experiences to talk about. Canada's still young, we're like the little brother, we're still developing.

MVRemix: Has your West Indian background affected your music style?

K-Os: That affected my style because my uncle used to make something called steel pan and he used to make instruments from scratch. I used to sit around and watch him take a big drum and a hammer and a chisel and make an instrument, pound it into submission. From an early age I realized that forget all the theory and going to music class you can just make your own instrument. I think Trinidad taught me that music is something inside of us and we don't always have to go study. You can study and become better at it for sure but I think that first its something you have to recognize that its something that grows in you and that's what the West Indies showed me that you should just love music. You start jamming in the middle of the day and party in the middle of the day, two in the afternoon and out comes the rum and everyone starts playing instruments.

MVRemix: What inspired you to use more live instrumentation in your music?

K-Os: When I saw The Roots in Toronto in a place called the Opera House in 1995. That concert changed my life and I knew when I left I called my homeboy, he went to music school, I said 'yo I need a band' and the next day from that day on in 1995 I've been trying to find that sound and I finally found it probably my first record which three or four years later in 99, 2000 with a bunch of guys from Vancouver which is the west coast of Canada, but it was really The Roots that changed my life that way.

MVRemix: What distinguishes Atlantis: Hymns for Disco from Joyful Rebellion and Exit?

K-Os: It's more personal. It's more confessional and its more fun you know what I mean. I think Joyful Rebellion was I was still in the protest mode I didn't understand where Hip Hop was going and I didn't have the strength to go outside of Hip Hop and find myself. Its experimental but at the same time a more personal record more so than any other record that I've ever done I can say for sure.

MVRemix: What are your favorite tracks off the album and why?

K-Os: Right now my favorite track is probably "CatDiesel". I like that track because it makes me want to dance and it reminds me of the old school jams back in the day. That beat in particular that break beat that's been used on other Hip Hop jams its just the certain way that people dance to it; every time I listen to it in my head phones I picture these kids back in the day doing these funky dances to it. My favorite record changes. I stopped listening to my record a couple months or so like I tried listened to it since December and then when it came out in America last week, I started to listen to it all last week. So I'm rediscovering my record like 'oh this is what people are hearing now? Wow this is cool' so right now its "CatDiesel."

MVRemix: Can you tell me more about your production work?

K-Os: No it's a secret. I don't say anything about it. I can't divulge that to you.

MVRemix: [laughs] Are you serious? K-Os interview

K-Os: No I don't know man I just like music. I just listen to a whole bunch of music and I go in the studio and I take the best things from the things that I like. I'm very much of a music fan. That word producer freaks me out. I'm just a guy that listens to music at 3 in the morning for four hours until the sun comes up and then when I go to the studio I know how I want it to sound. The key to me is having a really good engineer, somebody who really gets it down the way you want like Greg O'Shea. He's not even a Hip Hop head, he's an Australian guyfrom Australia. I guess Australian people are from Australia but he's an Australian guy and uh I found himand I was doing a project one day and this guy can get anything I told him 'I want it to sound like this.' He can make it happen so he's kind of the master mind behind everything I do. But its more knowing what I want to head and loving all types of music.

MVRemix: You've gotten a lot of success in Canada, so you think you'll achieve crossover appeal with ease?

K-Os: Nothing like what I'm tryna do comes easy but will I do it fun, for sure. It's not going to be easy. Even right now when I look at my schedule and I look at all these press phoners I'm like man...I really would rather be drinking a beer, sitting in front of the tour bus, but you gotta do these phoners. You got to talk to people, you gotta promote yourself and that's me being completely honest and at the same time during the last few minutes of talking to you I'm learning about myself just by answering these questions so if you look at it like that, you're learning about yourself but your also spreading your ideas to people, it can be fun. I'm just trying to have the most fun. That's why I got into music and my dad doesn't like it because I want to have fun all my life but I don't care anyway.

MVRemix: Why do you think there's a lot of materialism and violence in rap today because you discuss it a lot in your music?

K-Os: Because the people who make the music, that maybe moves people the most, is because the feelings that they have and the reason the music moves me is because they're going through hardcore shit. It's the same thing with Frank Sinatra or whatever you know Nina Simone. People don't talk about her life and how hardcore it was because she's a singer right. Or somebody like Michael Jackson. He must have had a really fucked up childhood to make the music he made. I think people focus on Hip Hop because it's more of like a gangster movie. It's an easier movie to make, it's kind of like Scarface or something. For the most part most artists from visual artists that used to chop their ears off. Artists have always gone through a lot of things and sometimes that's when their music is the best. I don't think it's just Hip Hop.

MVRemix: What can we expect from you in the future?

K-Os: A very fly wife and a lot of kids. I don't know. How bout that I'll just end it like that. A very beautiful wife and a lot of children.

Related content:
  • K-Os 2005 Interview by Hugo Lunny
  • K-Os 2007 Interview by Kendra Desrosiers
  • K-Os 2008 Interview by Aaron A*maze Joseph

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