Innovative, provocative, groundbreaking and fearless – the world’s only artist to record with both Guyanese rapper Saukrates and indie rock band Broken Social Scene – k-os released the Joyful Rebellion in 2004, featuring standout tracks “Crabbuckit,” “Man I Used to Be” and “B-Boy Stance.” Almost a decade later, k-os is twice platinum, toured with Drake, recorded with The Chemical Brothers, won a Source award, won multiple JUNO and Much Music Video Awards (with a staggering combined 34 nominations!) and was a 2005 Grammy nominee.
In 2013, k-os returns with the double album, BLack on BLonde via Crown Loyalist/Nettwerk Records (US). The album is two records: one album of rock tunes, on which k-os sings and plays drums, guitar and bass, and the other of old-school hip hop jams, including a song with his hero, Black Thought from The Roots. Making history in his hometown of Canada, BLack on BLonde is Canadian hip-hop’s first double album and the only thing large enough to contain k-os’ big musical ideas.
“Split like an atom,” as k-os says, the music on BLack on BLonde begins with BLack, a bravado-filled hip-hop record with the MC spitting verses at the very top of his game. “When you’re a kid and haven’t experienced anything, it’s real easy to get meta-physical real quick,” says k-os. “On the other hand, when you have money, no money, friends, no friends, you begin to get a little more life experience and human perspective. That’s really what’s fuelling this record, my own life lessons.” Standout tunes on BLack include “C.L.A” (featuring Travie McCoy), “Diamond Sky,” “Mojo On” and “Spaceship.”
Recorded at Hayden Christensen’s deserted Laurel Canyon mansion, k-os was living in Los Angeles when the Drake record broke. Hanging out on Melrose Avenue and listening to LA kids spitting Canadian rhymes, motivated him to rap again. “It was an exciting moment, not just for me, but for Canadian hip-hop and I felt really proud and I was ready to pound on my chest,” says k-os.
Of course, k-os would not be one of music’s freshest artists if he had stopped with the BLack album. Rather than waiting three years to release the additional nine songs, k-os shares a second album, BLonde. “When I started rapping, I had to compete with people like Nas and Q-Tip and some of the best who have ever done it, and so I compensated by singing and learning to play as many musical instruments as I could get my hands on.” A fan of rock music and new wave since his childhood, k-os says he’s always wanted to record a punk record and that “The Dog is Mine” is his proudest moment on wax. Other highlights include “Put Down Your Phone,” “Billy Bragg Winners” and “BLondes.”
“It's like what Treach [Naughty By Nature] said, ‘If you ain’t from the ghetto, don’t ever come to the ghetto,’ well, if you ain’t seen a girl shake her ass to ‘Barricuda,’ don’t make rock ‘n’ roll,” says k-os, grinning ear to ear. “Music is culture and that has to be honored and respected. Part of the reason I got into making rock ‘n’ roll was because I partied to the music and I know what it’s like to watch people dance to Siouxsie and the Banshees. I know I can represent this music and not be fraudulent.”
BLack on BLonde is the sound of heartache and ecstasy - the sound of a musician revealing himself, on both sides. “The record’s harder than anything I’ve done before, but it’s also got more spirit and more soul,” he says. “I’m glad hip hop music now allows for more emoting, more expressing of true feelings and more being out there and weird. I’m a kamikaze pilot, and I’m no longer afraid of being exposed.”