Canadian indie urbanite extraordinaire, k-os (Kheaven Brereton, Knowledge of Self, et al), has really outdone himself. For those not privy to his first two works, let us first pose the question, “Where the hell have you been?” Previous releases Exit and Joyful Rebellion offered a glaring display of the seemingly unbounded ability of one Kheaven Brereton, yet with album number three, Atlantis: Hymns for Disco, k-os is undoubtedly more sincere than he’s ever been, making for a near flawless output that will appeal to hip-hop heads and hipsters alike. Entirely written and produced by Brereton, Atlantis once again finds k-os enlisting the help of Sam Roberts and this time has cast his networking pole even further, luring Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew and Buck 65.
k-os’ previous two full length albums were met with acclaim, yet, mediocre sales kept him from achieving any type of success outside of Canada. While both records offer glimpses into his potential, neither attain the unquestioned excellence from start to finish like Atlantis does. On said album, k-os has emboldened his approach, lacing the disc with conscientious rhymes aimed at the state of hip-hop game, all while calling on his many Canadian musician friends to appear.
What k-os has always done best is buck the trends of hip-hop. He’s a rapper, but he sings. An emcee who plays his shows with a full backup band. You could even venture to say k-os is the antithesis of today’s hip-hop, defying both image and stagnant production. His music is refreshing, spiritual, positive, uplifting, and provocative. No frills are needed as Atlantis doesn’t employ crass verses or menial skits to maintain your interest. Instead, it relies on a diverse musical palette. Where his past albums took shots at the nature of the game, Atlantis is a from-the-heart self-revelation, a renaissance within a man who has always sought to attain a “knowledge of self.”
It is k-os’ mercurial nature that is at the root of his well-documented past, from his Caribbean roots, Jehovah’s Witness upbringing, to his work as a producer in the early ’90s, affiliation with John Salley, all the way to his vow to quit recording following the release of Exit. Through the colorful road he has traveled, k-os has finally reached his artistic peak, merging self-expression with musical mastery, culminating in the magnificent melting pot that is Atlantis.
On Atlantis, k-os has drawn from an array of influences, with elements of jazz, rock, soul, pop, and reggae, spliced with brash guitar and drum rhythms. The album is a veritable hodge-podge of uncategorizable tracks. As if that isn’t enough, k-os exudes an overwhelming confidence from the second the needle hits the record (or iPod queues up, whatever). Each track has its own appeal, through catchy beats and intellectual lyrics, providing endless danceability. “Elektrik Heat-The Seekwill” serves as the first Canadian single, complete with a happening music video. “Sunday Morning,” k-os’ ode-to-rest, has, early on, been intro fodder for every ESPN pre-game montage and serves as the first U.S. single. “Valhalla” is a frenetic jam built on a staccato beat, and the involvement of Sam Roberts and the brilliant Kevin Drew. Indie rapper Buck 65 appears as the album closes with the chilling “Ballad of Noah,” a song that considers one’s struggle for inner peace above the opinions of others. The remaining tracks are diverse, memorable, and chock full of marketability.
k-os’ music has always been based on his spiritual essence and his metaphysical philosophies. While such a mixture can rub some the wrong way, his uniqueness as a musician is unquestionable. With Atlantis, k-os has finally mastered his craft, using his raw talent to present smooth flowing rhymes, all while encompassing a spectrum of music that goes far beyond hip-hop. Bearing a multitude of retro styles and uncanny eclecticism, Atlantis is a soundtrack for the most eccentric of the bunch.