For those who miss the pre-Jack Johnson Mos Def, those who are still hungrily awaiting that still-in-the-works Lauryn Hill sophomore album, and those tired of the misogyny and gangster-isms tossed around hip-hop more often than F-bombs comes a worthy and likely substitute from a usually unlikely place: Canada.
Following critical acclaim but little American fanfare after the release of his debut album Exit comes the force to be reckoned with that is K-Os, part b-boy, part crooner, who delivers the aptly-titled and welcomed departure from the norm, Joyful Rebellion.
From the live jam band session that is “Emcee Murdah,” where K-Os condemns the violence and murder pilfering hip-hop these days over pleasant guitar licks, to the turntable friendly “B-Boy Stance,” K-Os’s energy and positive vibes trickle from one track to the next with their rebellious anti-commercial sounds – oddly enough, they gradually sound more and more like exactly what the commercial scene needs.
“The Love Song” strays from what the title implies to instead create a truthful and honest “sonnet” from K-Os, where he questions and laments, “Why am I telling lies to the people from the stage, Pretending it’s all good, when inside there’s fire and rage?” This quickly gives way though to the praiseful “Hallelujah,” with K-Os crooning, “Babylon is falling!” in a catch-the-spirit sort of way minus the religious aspects.
Michael Jackson K-Os is not, though the bouncy vibes of “Man I Used To Be” sound so similar to an M.J. track that it will not be hard to convince the diehard Jacko fans that this was a track cut from the original Thriller post-production (yes, it’s that eerily similar).
And for those worried that K-Os does not deliver enough lyrical content for the average hip-hop fan’s appetite, he comes through with the lyrically-inclined “Commandante,” spitting, “Raw like Big Daddy Kane, plus I’m born on the same day as Kurt Cobain, Rap’s nirvana, call me the beat piranha without the drama.” One listen and there’s hardly a wonder why MTV once deemed K-Os “buzzworthy.”
While Joyful Rebellion experiments liberally and allows the many faces of K-Os to garner appropriate shine, tracks like “One Blood (Jiggy Homicide)” might be a bit too much for the hip-hop crowd (though this could be an indication of what could happen if different genres keep mating with hip-hop music). And “Papercutz,” despite its elements of scratching (which are noticeably missing elsewhere) runs an absurd 15 minutes in an era when hip-hop fans struggle to hold their fingers off of the “skip” button for more than a few minutes.
Like a hip-hop Broadway show, Joyful Rebellion takes listeners through an unimaginable number of transitions, as K-Os raps, croons, and even produces himself through as diverse a group of songs as exist on one album today. In the cookie-cutter music industry today, K-Os’s Rebellion finds its own way across the Canadian border and through the speakers that have been infiltrated with money and fame and violence and murder for too long now.