Joyful Rebellion

BY Kevin JonesPublished Sep 1, 2004

When K-OS suggested a few years ago he would be calling it quits after the release of Exit, it was easy to understand the frustration bleeding through in his words. Combine 20/20 hindsight with his latest musical testament, however, and it’s hard to imagine anyone having been taken by such a pronouncement. Joyful Rebellion is the logical progression of K-OS’s previous work, piecing together fragments of a sonic spectrum that includes roots reggae, rock, Spanish guitar and orchestral string arrangements, while remaining firmly rooted in a hip hop aesthetic. With each musical style, K-OS explores the various themes and angles of attack that comprise the seemingly endless quest for truth that has been the hallmark of his artistic endeavours since day one. String swells set the tone on songs like "Love Song” and the album’s opener, "Emcee Murdah,” in which he lambastes those who would sacrifice creativity and artistic evolution in search of the cash flow. The retro rock style and introspective lyrics of "Man I Used To Be” give way to the contemplative, acoustic ponderings of "Hallelujah,” which in turn explodes into four-alarm microphone burners like "Neutronics” and "Commandante.” The album’s most adventurous forays — namely "Dirty Water” and "Papercuts” — show K-OS teaming up with Canadian rocker Sam Roberts on the former, and venturing out into trademarked 4hero territory on the latter, an eight-minute drum & bass opus, featuring solos by an upright bassist and K-OS himself, on piano. If K-OS’s quest can be described as a desire to enact change in humanity loath to the ideas of truth and self-expansion, then Joyful Rebellion selects the ultimate response in leading by example.

How prevalent do you think the idea of "Emcee Murdah” is? I think that happens a lot. This game is sometimes "pay as you play,” so you might start off wanting you to be the dopest MC and then, all of a sudden, something new comes into your reality that you wouldn’t have expected, and then it challenges your ideas about MCing or hip-hop. It’s prevalent as much as a professional athlete wants to be perfect at his game, and then he starts getting paid millions of dollars and maybe he starts thinking differently about his position on the basketball team. Sometimes money and fame and success change people’s idea of themselves, because you’re a lot hungrier when you don’t have those things, and you can concentrate on the art.

What do you think an answer to that is, or maybe a possible way to avoid it? Understanding hip-hop beyond just reacting to it. Understanding it as a music, studying it as a science so hip-hop’s not controlling you — you’re controlling it. It’s like Quincy Jones and Beethoven, those guys didn’t have that problem. They just made good art regardless, because they understood the music from a scientific viewpoint. A lot of MCs and hip-hop kids don’t really understand hip-hop. They kind of imitate it — they know how it’s supposed to sound and know how they’re supposed to start rapping — but that doesn’t really push things progressively. It sort of just makes you fit into what’s already there.

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