August 23, 2004
The joyful return of k-os
By KAREN BLISS -- For JAM! Music

k-os' microphone is fully loaded again on his second album, "Joyful Rebellion." The follow-up to the Toronto MC/singer's critically-acclaimed 2002 debut album, "Exit," will hit the streets tomorrow (August 24) in Canada via the Virgin imprint of EMI Music Canada, and on Astralwerks in the U.S. on September 21.

The first single, "B-Boy Stance," released earlier this summer, was aimed squarely at the hip hop audience, but there are plenty of crossover tracks to expand his reach, such as the pumping soul of "Man I Used To Be," and smooth rockin' collab with Sam Roberts called "Dirty Water." "Crabbuckit," which has a Love Cats/Hit The Road Jack feel, is the new single in Canada.

"When people ask me, (I say) it's like a male 'Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill,'" says Tim Trombley, vice-president of talent acquisition and artist development at EMI Music Canada. "He gift-wrapped some songs in very hooky, very commercial pop/hip hop structure, but lyrically (and) hook-wise, this record is even more in the pocket."

While k-os had been signed initially to Capitol in Los Angeles, management shuffles there prompted EMI Music Canada, which had originally taken the artist to its U.S. partner, to take the reigns and sign k-os for the world. Some time later, after k-os parted ways with his good friends at Figure IV management, Chris Smith Management (Nelly Furtado, Fefe Dobson) added him to its roster.

After receiving releases in other territories, EMI-affiliated Astralwerks put out the album in America in January of 2003, quietly selling about 40,000 albums. "Superstarr Pt. Zero" was rated Next and Buzz-worthy by both MTV and BET and "Exit" won international album of the year at the 2003 Source Awards. In Canada, it sold about 17,000 pieces, according to Nielsen SoundScan Canada.

This time, "Joyful Rebellion" will get a near simultaneous release.

"Errol Kolosine, who is the general manager (of Astralwerks), has been the main contact, main supporter, the main visionary in terms of America, and he and the whole label are just sideways about this new record," says Trombley.

In the U.S., "B-Boy Stance," an old-school hip hop nod, went to mix-show stations in June, and received support at stations like KPWR in Los Angeles, KKFR in Phoenix, XHTZ in San Diego and more, according to Astralwerks product manager Brian Beck. "MTV2 played the video a couple of times and we have over 300 spins on VH1 Soul and high rotation on MTVU."

The new U.S. single, "The Love Song," which k-os describes as "my Beatles hip hop," has been serviced to urban/rhythm crossover, and will be going for adds this week.

In Canada, "B-Boy Stance" reached top 40 CHR. The companion video was in heavy rotation at MuchMusic and is now in recurrent play. But EMI is taking a slightly different approach with the order of the next singles.

While "The Love Song" may be the third single in late October, the second single "Crabbuckit" was selected as the follow-up. The track has been well received at radio with major adds at Toronto's CHUM, MIX and The Flow; Vancouver and Kitchener, Ont.'s The Beats; Ottawa's Hot 89.9; Edmonton's 96X; and Montreal's CKOI, says EMI Music Canada's VP of promotion Derrick Ross.

According to the two radio monitoring charts in Canada, the song is No. 10 with a bullet at BDS, and No. 14 CHR Mediabase and No. 31 with a bullet at Hot AC Mediabase. "Our goal is No. 1," says Ross.

One of the most talented artists Canada has spawned, k-os, who possesses a rich melodic singing voice as well as a penetrating articulate rap flow, actually told the media last time around that "Exit" was indeed his exit from the music business. "I know I said I'd exit, but I just can't do it," he raps on the new song "Papercutz."

"Maybe, there's a lot of fear involved and maybe I have issues because I've always been scared of succeeding," k-os explains of his comments. "A lot of the planet can relate to that."

He says the choice of first single can be traced to his fear of success. "It was a fear of 'Crabbuckit' and 'The Love Song,' and 'Crucial' and 'Man I Used To Be' being these sing-songy, really arranged, three-and-a-half minute songs. 'B-Boy Stance' was kind of like an experiment to show that I could still do that and still have fun at the same time."

k-os, whose real name is Kevin Brereton, has had great support from such artists as Nelly Furtado, The Roots, and India.Arie, all of whom took the relative unknown on tour with them. He also collaborated with The Chemical Brothers on "Get Yourself High," which appeared on the British duo's limited edition Singles 93-03 double disc.

More recently, he was in the studio with DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad from A Tribe Called Quest, and The Roots, although the results have yet to see the light of day.

Montreal rocker Sam Roberts, who is signed to the same music publisher as k-os, Universal Music Publishing Canada, has turned down many an opportunity to collaborate with other artists, but said yes to k-os. Roberts can be heard on the chorus to "Dirty Water."

"Me and Sam related to one another on a personal level," says k-os. "I went to Montreal and we both drank a lot, so I ended up falling asleep, so I basically took his vocals back home and constructed a song out of them."

"He's a good friend of mine and I really respect him," says Roberts. "I'm not much of a collaborator, and to be honest with you, I just recorded some singing and k-os took the rest of it and just did his own thing with it. I trusted him implicitly. I had no doubts in my mind, and when I heard the finished product I was blown away."

It gives k-os encouragement that fellow artists are fans of his too, not just Roberts, but The Roots, his favorite group, and India.Arie. "Well, it affects critics too because they sometimes realize if the artist community is buzzing about it, then maybe they need to check it out," k-os says.

Live, k-os performs with guitarist Russ Klyne and tabla player Santosh Naidu, but he plans on putting together a full band for "Joyful Rebellion."

"We're holding off on the tour because last year I did so much touring across the country," says k-os who is represented in Canada by Jeff Craib at Toronto-based S.L. Feldman & Associates. "Maybe November, December. So right now, I'm going to sit back and let the record come out. Maybe do some promotional stuff. Try to get the band together and really rock this time."