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Joyful Rebellion

Rating: 8/10 ?

October 1, 2004


Canada has better health care than us, lower crime rates, and now, nicer hip hop.

Trinidad-born, Toronto-raised k-os's sophomore effort is a blueprint for where hip hop should be headed.
Building up from the work of The Roots, Goodie Mob and Wyclef Jean, k-os (who produced and wrote Joyful Rebellion) has a solid balance of live music, samples and 808 drum beats. Equal parts reggae, rap, folk and pop, his album is as much Bob Dylan as it is Bob Marley, as much Marvin Gaye as it is Mos Def.

At 12 tracks, Joyful Rebellion is also refreshingly devoid of the filler (intros, outros, skits) and featuring (your favorite marginally talented artist's name here) credits that have made most recent rap albums so painfully monotonous. As a result, hip hop fans will find their fingers slowly backing away from the skip buttons on their CD players when listening to this album.

His singing on "Hallelujah" and "Crucial" is amazingly on-key compared to the rest of the rap world (If Andre 3000 set the bar for hip hop singing with "Hey Ya," then k-os just pole vaulted over it). His "hoo-hoos" on "The Man I Used To Be" are a dead-on tribute to early Michael Jackson. And his rap voice, which is about a quarter of an octave off of Q-tip's stopped-up nasal sound, is distinct enough to keep you focused. He also gets points for being able to switch mid-song from one style to another.

But as much praise as Joyful Rebellion will likely get from anyone who stumbles across it, I should point out that k-os isn't quite yet the renaissance rapper he'd like to be.

After several spins, a few things become clear about Joyful Rebellion. One: k-os' lyrics aren't that great. You won't notice it at first, because there's so much going on in each song that the lyrics become secondary. The clever wordplay you might get from others out of the conscious hip hop camp is missing.

Two: the fact that k-os can do it all actually hurts him because the album never really finds a steady direction. It's kind of like changing channels from one good show to another - interesting, but ultimately unfulfilling.

Finally: for a Joyful Rebellion, it's a little too heavy on joy and much too light on rebellion. Aside from the "Emcee Murder," on which he claims that the downfall of mainstream rappers is fame and money, it's never quite clear what he's rebelling against.

Reviewed by Taylor Loyal
The last we heard, Taylor was living in Nashville, Tennessee, home of the guitar-shaped swimming pool.

See other reviews by Taylor Loyal



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