Written by Tony Wang:
What can I say about k-os. Being a Toronto native, who grew up in the 2000s, I was once a part of the ‘Crabbuckit’ craze. Being about eleven at the time, ‘Crabbuckit’, and the album Joyful Rebellion, were what started my love for music. I did a percussion assignment solely dedicated to the rhythms of ‘Crabbuckit’. I watched with content as Joyful Rebellion, ‘Crabbuckit’ and, k-os won big at the Juno Awards in ‘05. It indeed was this early record from k-os that oriented my musical sensibilities. But even so, I recognized that ‘Crabbuckit’ was something which sonically came out of left field and nothing, at that time, sounded quite like it. And nothing at that time sounded quite like k-os.
Fast forward to 2016. K-os is six studio albums in, having just released Can`t Fly Without Gravity just the year before. And now here, in front of me, is another offering from k-os. It’s a fifteen-track mixtape by the name of ViEWS FROM THE STIX, featuring some of the elements that have become mainstays within k-os’s repertoire: his lo-fi treated signature voice, aware lyrics, the experimental and fusioned quality, and the incorporation of familiar b-boy aesthetics.
However, there are moments where he steps out of his established sound. On this project we have a few tracks where k-os partners up with booming Canadian producer Kaytranada, as the duo KEVIN. Admittedly these tracks were dominated by the flavor of Kaytranada, but this seems to benefit both artists equally. ‘Smells Like Cream Spirit’ is what I believe to be a good example of synergy between these artists, demonstrating the blending of the experimental and genre bending aesthetic of k-os with the smooth qualities of Kaytranada. Saukrates also features several times on this mixtape, notably on ‘Yin Yang Money’, ‘Give UP The Goods’, and ‘Boys II Men’. The latter, a track off Can’t Fly Without Gravity, offers an energetic exchange of bars between k-os and Saukrates as well as a few other well-known Canadian rappers, namely Kardinall Offishall, Choclair, King Reign and Shad. The aggression it brought was refreshing; never mind that the track was technically recycled, it was still a great addition.
One of the most interesting elements that this tape brings is that it somehow still identifies k-os as its creator. While many artists have trouble evolving whilst keeping ownership of their innovation, k-os seems to do this with ease. Perhaps it’s the same, lo-fi voice modifications that he employs—to varying degrees—on all his tracks. Perhaps it’s by being continuously experimental. Or perhaps it’s because he does indeed have other elements of consistency that he builds into each track. It is hard to say. However, it is gratifying to feel like you are listening to a genuine k-os project.
All in all, this project is a mixtape in its truest definition. It offers a taste of what is to come and seeks to fulfil fans who await k-os’ future releases. With that being said, this project is incredibly experimental, in line with k-os’ approach to music in general, and has a few highlight worthy tracks such as ‘Smells Like Cream Spirit’, ‘Another Shot’ and, ‘Boys II Men’—just to name some of my personal standouts. Plus, as a Canadian hip-hop head, it is always a pleasure to see Canadian artists trade verses with one another and create music with a Canadian perspective. I, for one, am excited at the prospect of more involved collaboration between k-os and Kaytranada. With Kaytranada’s subdued yet simultaneously futuristic and energetic sound pairing up with k-os’ experimental, fusioned and fast paced, rhythmic lyrical sensibilities I think we may have some gold to come.