Canadian rapper k-os doesn’t play by the rules. Hitting the hip-hop scene with 2002’s “Superstarr Pt. Zero” and his album Exit, he was praised for a back-to-basics hip-hop approach, incorporating breakbeats, live instrumentation, and introspective lyricism. Subsequent albums Joyful Rebellion and Atlantis: Hymns for Disco expanded k-os even further musically, widening the scope to include more singing, along with reggae, funk and indie rock influence.
On Yes!, k-os brings the focus closer back to hip-hop, although all the influences and styles he’s adapted are still readily audible.
First single “4, 3, 2, 1” is said to be a direct response to friend (and fellow Canadian singer) Feist’s “1234,” which was made famous by an Apple iPod Nano commercial. “4, 3, 2, 1” combines dynamic shifts between moody pianos and an upright-bass assisted breakbeat, all interspersed with scratching and unintelligible vocal samples.
“I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman” is sure to be the most popular song from the album. Sampling the unbearably catchy “California” by Phantom Planet (a.k.a. the theme song for O.C.), the Canadian affair features k-os and rapper Saukrates trading verses about a failed relationship (with hip-hop?) while Nelly Furtado provides subtle background vocals.
Yes! finds k-os rapping more than he has on his last two albums, but the production still reflects his eclectic musical taste. Opening track “Zambony” manages to mesh 808 drums, eerie choral chanting, synthesizers, orchestral strings, and a Big Boi vocal sample into an off-kilter backdrop servicing k-os’ storytelling.
“Astronaut” invokes Middle Eastern and Indian musical cues, and “Uptown Girl” is indie rock, and could have easily been a TV On The Radio song. Meanwhile “Eye Know Something” is a straight-from-the-’80s rollerskating jam.
Yes! isn’t k-os’ most memorable album. It lacks some of the emotional punch that past songs like “Heaven Only Knows” and “Love Song” had. But in an over-saturated and lacking hip-hop scene, any k-os album is guaranteed to be one of the most creative and challenging albums of the year.
To hear live recordings from k-os concerts, make sure to check All The Way Live.