Monday, May 4th, 2009

k-os – 4 3 2 1

Probably the biggest rapper in Canada, assuming we’re not counting Kardinal Offishall. Or Nelly Furtado’s verse on “Give It To Me”…


Dave Moore: Having just gotten back from a trip in which I discovered that my teenage cousin and her friends were unaware of the existence of a band called Cake (she was not amused when I suggested that her band, tentatively called Kake, should pronounce it “khaki”), I must say I’m kind of glad that whatever hypothetical mid-to-late-90’s genre this song is jacking (trip-pop?) isn’t ready to come out of the time machine just yet. I have a feeling k-os would have felt right at home doing a guest spot on “The Sunscreen Song” or something.

Erika Villani: If, at some point during the summer, you find yourself sitting in on a curb in the hot sunshine, watching kids play in the spray of a fire hydrant, this would be a good song to have with you.

Ian Mathers: I don’t know if there’s any other Canadians writing for the Jukebox, so I don’t know if anyone else is aware this jagoff has been a blight on our airwaves for over a decade now. Shockingly, he’s getting worse. The fake plummy Brit accent at the beginning, the line about “as long as I keep rhyming, eyes keep shining, soul’s divine”, the clusterfuck non-structure of the track, the oh-so-clever way they end each chorus line with “for” so they can say the title again… this isn’t just a prime example of boring conscious rap, it’s infuriating.

Alex Ostroff: k-os is torn between two contradictory impulses. The first is a vague sense of hip hop purism, nostalgia for breakbeats and block parties that gets him lumped in with the self-righteous ranks of conscious rappers. However, he’s more often exploring musical fusion, merging hip hop with new wave, rockabilly, disco and anything else that tickles his fancy. “4 3 2 1” is a pleasant enough track. His vocals on the chorus are smooth, while the upright bass adds an improvised jazzy feel. That said, k-os is capable of transcendent pop moments that omnivorously take on everything from Bloc Party to Michael Jackson to Bob Dylan. This isn’t one of them (The SoundCrate Remix was released as a single, and gives “4 3 2 1” the Lil’ Wayne’s Rebirth treatment. Not necessarily better, but different and interesting).

Rodney J. Greene: The bendy acoustic bass notes that got left behind with the ’90s are novel, the lite-breaks that outstayed their welcome past that decade’s close are not.

Hillary Brown: That almost sounds like a Fernando Saunders bass in there, with its incredible smoothness and bent notes, so this song makes me think of Lou Reed meets Arrested Development. The results, surprisingly, aren’t bad at all. It’s a little chaotic, but not unpleasant.

Martin Skidmore: He’s a hard person to pin down: he sings and raps, we get pianos and scratching and a bit of everything. It’s the kind of experimental hip hop that usually goes with overtly conscious lyrics, but the rhymes are entirely lightweight here. It’s also the kind of quirkiness that I mostly can’t abide in indie or rock, but k-os (pronounced ‘chaos’, apparently) holds my interest, even if this doesn’t seem to quite come together or resolve into anything much.

Michaelangelo Matos: I keep hearing this guy and thinking it’s OK and then forgetting he exists. This is bulbous and Daisy Age-like enough to make me wonder if this won’t change things a bit (the fact that I’m concentrating more than usual does too), but it’s still vague enough to make me think probably not. And then I remember why I like the track despite the vocalist: chunks of it are swiped from the Pharcyde’s “Drop.”

Martin Kavka: The socially conscious chorus (“what we fighting for?”) doesn’t mesh with the verses, which seem to be more interested in the sound of the rhyme than in expressing a thought, and the beat is a little tired. But in the last minute, all of a sudden these great strings and a soprano voice come out of nowhere. Can I have a loop of that?

3 Responses to “k-os – 4 3 2 1”

  1. I’m Canadian, Ian! My problem with K-os is his rapping. He can craft a good pop song when he’s singing… “Man I Used to Be,” “Sunday Morning,” anyone?

  2. Indeed. “Born to Run”, even. Love Song, if I ignore his random non-sequitur rapping and just focus on the chorus and the violins.

  3. I’m not Canadian, but I’ve listened to enough radio drifting across the border from Vancouver to have a longstanding love-hate relationship as K-Os. I basically look at him the same way I look at He has pop smarts and is clearly very talented, but also an unrepentant cornball who can’t rap.