The Great White North is a land of great obscurity. To the typical American imagination, the mention of Canada conjures up images of draft dodgers, hockey and austere landscapes. For rapper/singer/multi-instrumentalist K-os, it's home. "When people think of Canada, it's snow and open land," he lamented during a recent phone conversation. But K-os is proof that his homeland is much more.
In the mid-aughts, K-os had two albums certified platinum in Canada. He quickly found success wasn't all he had dreamed of. It was strange, he says, "making money, and then wondering if what I was doing was even good, or if I was just being used by the music industry as a poster child for this or that." The internal struggle that accompanies success is well-documented, but feeling its grip firsthand took K-os by surprise. "You start to wonder, is this really me? And then you realize, it's not," he explains.
His most recent album, Yes!, is a concoction of disparate influences that was born out of his desire for a return to emotional normalcy. Now, he says, "I'm a little more cool with myself. I love myself more. [Yes!] was me trying to find myself in relation to music without [success] being the thing that I'm searching for."
The results of his journey are wildly varied and quite inspired. "Uptown Girl" is a sturdy rocker that features Metric's Emily Haines. "I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman" is beat-driven and sports a sample of Phantom Planet's "California." Asked about his proclivity towards genre-hopping, K-os cites his dad's record collection, where Miles Davis sat cozily next to Olivia Newton-John. "I would look at these records, and I started to get the idea that it was OK for all these things to exist next to each other."
Next up is a mixtape, Anchorman, set to drop June 20. K-os recently toured extensively with rising hip-hop star Drake, and the experience inspired him to try his hand at a more streamlined sound. "I think it might surprise people," he says eagerly.
People, schmeople. What really matters is that K-os continues to surprise himself.
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Oi! Thanks for the fact-check, Skinhead! It's fixed now.