Article - k-os throws himself a surprise party

The Canadian MC/singer spurs his own artistic rebirth

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.