Exit, K-os's 2003 debut, was supposed to be his only release. Instead, the success of that album paved the way for Joyful Rebellion, his critically acclaimed 2004 followup. Although K-os (aka Kheaven Brereton) is an award-winning artist in Canada, the MC has yet to transcend the underground in the States -- but his latest effort, Atlantis: Hymns for the Disco, just might change all that. Musically, the album ranges from straight-up b-boy jams to heart-wrenching blues and acoustic soul, while lyrically, K-os shares his spiritual conquests and defeats (he was raised a Jehovah's Witness) in an accessible manner that's never heavy-handed. We recently caught up with the rapper and asked him about breaking through in America and being compared to Lauryn Hill.
Westword: What does the album title Atlantis: Hymns for the Disco mean?
I don't know what it means. I know the Hymns for the Disco part was because I was partying, and a lot of these songs I wrote on Saturday mornings and Sunday mornings, after I went out. And I tried to calm myself down a bit. There's a lot of energy when you're going out, hanging out, drinking, meeting girls, but it was really unfulfilling. I come from a very spiritual, religious upbringing, and I was just trying to find a place to ground myself. The Atlantis part was for so many things, man, I can't even tell you -- from Katrina to the water situation on the planet, to me listening to Muddy Waters and the blues, to the fact that I'm a Pisces and Aquarius. There's just too many factors to explain the Atlantis part, but the Hymns for the Disco was definitely me saying, "You know what? Here are some songs you can definitely play on a Sunday morning or Saturday morning, after you've gone to the club."
You're huge in Canada, but in the U.S., you're pretty much underground. How do you feel about how your music is received here?
Well, Canada is pretty much the size of California, right? So America is huge. What I'm doing in Canada is way easy to penetrate. There's not a lot of black music out there, and when they get something, they enjoy it; it sticks out. I'm thankful for my success in Canada; in fact, it's kept me sane. There's a big difference in population. With this record, songs like "The Rain" and "Sunday Morning" -- I think people here in the U.S. might get it more because there's a lot of soul references, more so than my other two records. But I just think it has to do with the bigger population.
In reviews, you're often described as a "male Lauryn Hill." What do you think about that comparison?
That's an honor, yo. Lauryn Hill is the queen. To tell you the truth, if groups like the Fugees didn't exist, I would have lost my way, ya know? I said that on my liner notes -- that if it wasn't for the Roots, Eric B & Rakim, Mos Def and OutKast, as a Canadian kid coming up, I would have lost my way. So any comparison to that woman, to me, is an honor. At least I'm a "male Lauryn Hill" and not a "female" one.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.