Elevate Difference

k-os: Live at the 9:30 Club (2/21/2007)

If hip-hop is now comparable to a staid night of champagne swilling, high profiling, platinum-plated debauchery, then k-os is as refreshing as the hazy Sunday morning brunch spread invitingly along an island shore. Following in the tracks laid by former underground artists, Talib Kweli and Common, k-os is a creative contained energy wielding a socially conscious, reggae splashed mandate.

On February 21st, Washington D.C. welcomed the Canadian MC, born Kevin Brereton, to the hub of alternative music. Hundreds of hipsters and surburban b-boys lined V Street in anticipation of “Kheaven’s Original Sound” and the Daryl Hall for President Tour '07, which features acclaimed hip-hop artists Gym Class Heroes, P.O.S. and progressive, ska-punkers RX Bandits.

As k-os took the stage, in a pair of fresh kicks and worn hoodie, I felt that we had all been personally invited to chill on an all-encompassing collegiate futon while he tried to wax poetically over a groove infected live band. However, when his lyrics failed to scale clever peaks, k-os’ Trinidadian lilt, reminiscent of Wyclef Jean, carried us through the lull.

Playing his way through his third and latest album, Atlantis: Hymns for Disco, k-os certainly seemed to possess knowledge of himself… perhaps a tad too much. While it was refreshing not to have to bare witness to another slick, over processed, strobe-infused performance, I would have preferred to see less of the MC’s back. I would encourage him to toy with and play off of the energy the young crowd was so ready to give him. Yet, while I find k-os the performer a bit lackluster, k-os the musician is certainly a breath of hope-filled air.

When rap heavyweights claim that hip hop is dead, perhaps shot point blank by misogynistic dirty South bullets, I am charmed by k-os. In an industry that is prone with carbon copy chameleon heirs, k-os strives to bring some integrity back to the beat of the urban street. Unfortunatately, his 9:30 Club performance seemed somewhat locked onto the promise of securing the highly coveted MTV rotation currently being conquered by the main act.

I long for the golden era of old school hip-hop, and I think k-os is fervently trying to usher in some sort of renaissance, but this precarious position between artistic merit and mainstream success prevents him from blazing a well-known trail. Perhaps his position in this current tour will ignite a following, a cause and a re-birth of a creative hip-hop nation.

Written by: Pamela Wiley, April 6th 2007