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K-OS - Yes!

K-Os, Yes!

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

TRINIDAD-born, Toronto raised artist K-OS remains one of hip-hop’s best kept secrets.

Four albums in and he continues to be under-appreciated and yet the way in which he plays within the genre he represents is evidence of one of its richest talents.

Yes! marks the fourth album from the musician, emcee and producer and is spearheaded by the deliriously feelgood single, I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman – the sound of the LP at its most mainstream.

But the mix of genres and styles that make up this listen serve to create an LP that constantly keeps you on your toes and seldom does what’s expected.

It boasts hard-hitting hip-hop beats, a clever use of samples, high-profile collaborations, hard rock guitar riffs and a really diverse range of styles (sometimes across the same song) that are all satisfying in some way.

I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman is, admittedly, the out and out highlight… a glorious celebration of styles and influences that cleverly samples Phantom Planet’s California and includes guest spots from rapper Saukrates and songbird Nelly Furtado. It’s a mesmerising romp of a single and one of the feelgood records of the year.

But the album’s not short on other highlights. 4, 3, 2, 1 is a masterful hip-hop track that serves as K-OS’ response to Feist’s 1, 2, 3, 4 – expertly mixing elements of chillout with a pounding old-skool hip-hop backdrop capable of getting anyone up on the dancefloor.

Uptown Girl, conversely, samples Love Buzz by ’60s Dutch psychedelic group Shocking Blues over more snappy hip-hop elements to sound like a mad fusion of rap and Hendrix. It comes complete with help from Metric’s Emily Haines and The Dears’ Murray Lightburn.

Album opener Zambony is a great entry point, marked by its stripped down beats and choral background, as well as K-OS’ commanding central flow. The layered, on-off string, synth and guitar elements are also evidence of an artist who loves to layer… as is the soulful vocal midway through.

K-OS flirts with the more traditional urban hip hop sound of 50 Cent during the early stages of Eye Know Something, before diverting into synth-pop territory, while there’s a warped slice of future-pop synth providing the backdrop for the hip, moody The Aviator.

FUN!, another major highlight, lays punchy [and inspired] rock guitars over classic, boom-bap drums before disarmingly shifting into a spacey, yet soulful, beat after a mid-track breakdown that genuinely catches you off-guard.

And Mr Telephone Man is a clever six-minute opus that again mixes up plenty of elements, including a scratched up dial tone. It could almost be two different songs such is the difference between the start and the finish – yet more evidence of the adventurous ambition of K-OS in his prime.

WhipCREAM is as fun as the title suggests, dropping another slick beat with piano loops, a whoozy chorus and a fine vocal, while The Avenue ends things on a bluesy, more pensive note to show the crooner side of K-OS.

Just like 2006’s Atlantis: Hymns for Disco this is another masterful hip-hop album from a true master. I doubt you’ll hear too many finer hip-hop albums this year.

Download picks: Zambony, Uptown Girl, 4, 3, 2, 1, I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman, WhipCREAM, Mr Telephone Man, FUN!

Track listing:

  1. Zambony
  2. Astronaut
  3. Burning Bridges
  4. Uptown Girl
  5. I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman
  6. 4321
  7. Eye Know Something
  8. The Aviator
  9. FUN!
  10. Mr Telephone Man
  11. WhipCREAM
  12. The Avenue

  1. Yes, yes, yes… finally a reviewer who also recognises K-OS talent. He’s immmense

    Jules    May 4    #