A&E » Arts

Retro-revivalist rebel

k-os knows who he is



Who: k-os

What: FIS 2005 World Snowboarding Championships

Where: Whistler Conference Centre

When: Saturday, Jan. 22

Tickets: SOLD OUT

I first caught sight of k-os in his Superstarr Pt. Zero video.

He appeared amid a slew of carbon copy offerings by his contemporaries featuring virtually indistinguishable sloe-eyed emcees in boxy athletic jerseys and scantily clad booty babes looking bored as they tried to out-whore each other.

K-os lit up the screen like a firecracker. A spastic-fantastic clad in a combination of Cuban military and 1980s street garb proclaiming his rhymes into a megaphone over a jazzy piano riff, cut with jaw-dropping displays of old-school b-boying filmed in grainy cinema realitŽ.

My attention ramped immediately from mildly distracted to compelled.

"Who," I had to know, "is this?"

Underneath the enigmatic moniker, pronounced "chaos", also an acronym for "knowledge of self" is thirty-something Toronto-based emcee Kheven Brereton whose ability to turn heads has only increased since the release of his debut album Exit and the Superstarr Pt. Zero single in 2002-03.

The release of his second full-length album Joyful Rebellion in August 2004 has only upped the ante. From the opening track B-Boy Stance, a manifesto about remaining true to the foundations of hip-hop, through catchy radio-friendly follow ups like Crabbuckit and Man I Used to Be, it seems these days everyone wants to know who k-os is.

Including Brereton. A supposedly brief phone chat stolen during set-up for his show in Halifax last week turns into an aerobic discussion of life, roots, identity, personal philosophies, and influences. Off the mic Kheven Brereton is as energetic, vibrant and articulate as his k-os persona on the mic. In either incarnation, the man isnÕt afraid to let it flow.

His Ôb-boy stanceÕ has tagged him a retro-revivalist and he accepts it proudly.

"All humans are retro-revivalists," he states. "ThereÕs nothing new under the sun and anyone trying to tell you theyÕve done something new is lying to you.É The originality, to me, is lyrical and itÕs personality."

Take reggae artists, he offers, defiantly unique despite the fact many artists are using the same beats.

Take Crabbuckit. Brereton says the track came from fooling around with a swing-jazzy bass line equal parts Hit the Road Jack and Love Cats by the Cure. He added handclaps, let the quirky rhymes flow, and the result is one of the most unique and danceable hit tunes of 2004.

HeÕs learned to accept his spontaneity and trust his instincts, in the creative process, but also in terms of his career and his place in the hip-hop nation as a Canadian artist.