k-os evokes a a spirit of the none ghetto American dream. Perhaps that's because the rapper-songwriter-producer - born Kevin Brereton - is Canadian, just like Drake who he's toured with extensively. The multi-talented, twice-Platinum k-os' awards read like a rap sheet for accolades. He has won a Source Award, multiple Juno and Much Music Video Awards (with a staggering combined 34 nominations!), and is Grammy-nominated for his collaboration with The Chemical Brothers on their single “Get Yourself High.” His new album, BLack on BLonde, sees a more personal side of the artist. VIBE talks with k-os (originally an acronym for 'Kevin's Original Sound') to take a closer look at his new album, what it represents and how its message can influence today's modern rappers, including Kanye West.
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VIBE: Describe your sound at this very moment?
k-os:"In the Ghetto" of the mind thoughts are thugged out, while the intellect remains sedated and drugged out, "Like A Virgin", touched for the first and last time, such is the state of a man observing his own mind.
You’ve said that your most recent album, BLack on BLonde, reflects all facets of your entire being. Can you elaborate on this a bit more. Is it the album’s music or message that represents you?
I was born to immigrant parents from the West Indies in Canada, but my whole life was surrounded by white people and suburban life. At some point I had to realize and be OK with the fact that as much as I love UGK, Andre3k and Nate Dogg (RIP), I am not from an American Ghetto. That realization helped me investigate how Rock n' Roll influenced me growing up as a teenager, then it behooved me to present those punk sensibilities side-by-side with my hip-hop roots in a double album format. This new-found freedom allowed me to present a full reflection of my entire musical being as opposed to just posing as a 'person from America', which is what a lot of Canadians do to succeed in the world of entertainment.
Could you also explain the meaning behind the album’s title?
It's basically a nod to Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde double album title. Bob Dylan is my hero and favorite artist of all time. I believe him to be a prophet and one of the first emcees or rappers in America's musical history as shown here:
I was also striving to be one of the first hip-hop artists to say 'hey, look how in touch I am with my inner Rock n' Roll white person!' implying subversively that being a black human or a blonde human or whatever is REALLY not that dissimilar...just more at the opposite ends of a spectrum where stereotypes exist. So lets CRUSH those stereotypes MUSICALLY...NOW!
A little fun fact about the album was that it was produced in Hayden Christensen’s deserted Laurel Canyon mansion. Was was the weirdest or most interesting thing you came across while being there?
You also collaborated with the Chemical Brothers in the past. What was it like working with them?
Their London studio was like a lab, and their engineer was this red headed dude with Einstein hair. There were wires coming in and out of vintage equipment I had never seen, and it was just as 'chemical' as i expected it to be. Tom Rowlands remains one of the biggest influences on my production style as far as loud clear drums and thumping basslines. He was also the first person I worked with to come into the vocal booth with me to show me EXACTLY what he was talking about; for that I respect him to the maximum!
What other electronic music producers would you like to collaborate with in the future?
Girl Talk. I e-mail him every three months to remix a track, but dude is so busy ALL the time - for example he will reply to me real qwik like, 'yo!! corey hart rules...way behind on a ton of things'. Just one line replies and that's it. However, I am very confident he and I will work together in the future! Calvin Harris is also a mate of mine - we have tried to work together before, but could not find the time. I also love Mantronix.
What direction do you hope to take your sound/music from now on?
All in all, I just wanna make the flossy/stunty/facile rapper embarrassed or insecure when they hear my music, not because I want to hurt them, but because I want to use the opportunity of cultural freedom I had growing up in Canada to push the parameters of hip-hop to its limits. For me that entails making art that forces or inspires other artists to check their motives and make something more interesting and original. I did that for Kanye...ask him.