k-os returns with upbeat album

Former Toronto rapper k-os sought change by moving to Vancouver, he says, because "I was in...

Former Toronto rapper k-os sought change by moving to Vancouver, he says, because "I was in the cage singing these beautiful melodies, but I couldn't really fly because I was trapped by an idea of myself." (Jack Boland, Sun Media)

-- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 2:21 AM ET

What do you do if, after a decade of making critically and commercially successful music, you've lost your passion for your job?

In the case of Toronto rapper-singer-songwriter-producer k-os, you switch things up -- big time.

The 37-year-old artist, whose real name is Kevin Brereton, relocated from Toronto to Vancouver at the beginning of the year, changed record labels (from EMI to Universal-Nettwerk), managers (from Chris Smith to Terry McBride) and agents.

The end result can be heard on the new k-os album, the upbeat titled Yes!, which hit record stores yesterday leading up to a free, so-called Karma tour of Canada starting April 30.

k-os plays the Kool Haus in Toronto on May 9.

"It's fire, it's passion, this album to me is taking those passionate feelings I have and transmuting them into something that's fun -- because I'm having so much fun right now," said k-os, yesterday, dressed in a red-coloured windbreaker with a hood that covered his signature dreads.

"I feel rejuvenated. I think that's the best word as far as music and ideas -- and just like my viewpoint. My life is music, so sometimes I think you go up and down in any occupation no matter how glamourous it is. You start to look at yourself as somebody who has achieved certain things because you keep being told that.

"So I think that's where the rejuvenation comes from -- to sort of forget all that and be like, 'Okay, what do I really have to offer at this point that's new?'

"I think when you look at the history of people like Bob Dylan or David Bowie, you'll see at certain times in their career, they just needed to start fresh.

"And now when I look back, it's the best thing I could have done because I need newness. Because I'm a constant evolver."

Yes!, whose first single is 4,3,2,1, (a good-natured hip-hop response to his friend Feist's uber-hit, 1,2,3,4,), follows on the heels of k-os' two most successful albums -- 2004's Joyful Rebellion and 2006's Atlantis: Hymns for Disco.

It was a heady period that saw him attain platinum artist status, win an armload of Junos, MuchMusic Video Awards, Canadian Urban Music Awards, a Source Award, play large venues across Canada, make an appearance on David Letterman and get a Grammy nod.

He said at times the attention and praise was too much for him as a black artist.

"I used to say to the president of my label, I don't have a reference point of a Neil Young -- a black artist that's been there, done that, that I can call up," k-os said.

"He's like, 'That's because you are that.' That's when I was, 'I'm not like that. I don't consider myself to be that because I'm so young in my soul.' It's like, don't put that responsibility on me.

"And I think that's why Atlantis was such a blues album. I was singing the blues. I was like a bird whose wings were cut. I was in the cage singing these beautiful melodies, but I couldn't really fly because I was trapped by an idea of myself."

There were also some memorable feuds along the way with fellow Toronto rapper K'Naan and Toronto music writer Jason Richards.

The second single from Yes! -- which includes guest appearances by Metric's Emily Haines, The Dears' Murray Lightburn, Nelly Furtado and Saukrates, among others -- is called Burning Bridges, but k-os says don't read too much into that.

"Burning Bridges is my affirmation song where I was burning bridges with my old self," he said. "In other words, every record to me is a chance to smash and renounce who I was before and offer something new to myself and to other people."

Still, all the hatin' certainly seems to be behind k-os -- he tells Sun Media he spoke to Richards earlier in the day.

k-os still maintains a place in Toronto although he's becoming acclimatized to Vancouver where he moved into a loft in January, just blocks from Bryan Adams' Warehouse Studio in Gastown where he has made all of his albums.

"I dated Vancouver for 10 years. My band is from there. I wanted to see what it would be like if I just threw myself on the West Coast," he said. "I'm now finding out the kind of time I can spend in each place to kind of get what I need from it and move on."


Videos

Photos