Atlantis: Hymns For Disco
*This review has been re-upped for the US release of the album* - Ed.
As a Canadian and lifetime devotee of the Hip Hop persuasion, I have always been pretty damn opinionated when it comes to emcees coming from above the 49th parallel. And I'll be honest; Take away our Backbone Slide, and there isn't a whole lot of material to boast about. Thank the stars for K-Os.
Kheaven Brereton is the furthest thing from your average emcee. Raised by Jehovah's Witness parents, and enveloped by cultures from Toronto to Trinidad, K-Os comes with a diverse artistic palette to say the least. If it is at all possible to compare his music to that of other artists, it'd have to be Lauryn Hill and Mos Def, as is often the case. Not that he sounds anything like them, he's just that good. He can rhyme and produce his ass off, and a strong case can be made that he is one of the best at both as anyone else out there. If you've never heard this man's material before, than hopefully I'll be able to convince you to get your head out of your ass.
Atlantis: Hymns for Disco is K-Os' 3rd album, following suit after his last release, Joyful Rebellion of 2004, and Exit of two years prior. This record is outstanding music in its purest form. I could do what a normally do and cut through this record song by song, but given the subject, and how hard it is to separate the music from the musician, I'll instead treat the album and artist as one superb piece of music.
Range. There aren't many musicians out there that can nail so many different sounds so well and with so much passion that it may have you thinking that every song on Atlantis is from a different artist - K-Osáis one. This sensation should hit as soon as "The Rain," a soulful ballad, comes on right after the early 90's boom bap-fuelled album opener "Electrik Heat." If not, then "Equalizer," which may as well be four or five different songs from different genres from different decades all mashed into one, should definitely get your attention. Skip forward a bit, and "Valhalla" features fellow Canadian music icon Sam Roberts. The two crafted a cross-genre project worthy of every bit of praise a little duo by the name of Gnarles Barkley received earlier this year. Not that this sounds like St. Elsewhere, it's just that good.
Rhythm. I'll be blunt. He doesn't rap that much this time around. I was caught a little off guard by how much he flexes his vocal chords on this one. "Fly Paper" follows "The Rain," and progresses Atlantis another 180║. This is one of the many melodies that will have your toe-tapping harder than if you were listening to Andre 3000. Not that it sounds anything like that - again, it's just that good. As good as he is however, and how perfectly his singing flows over his arrangements, he's not quite a singer, but rather, a rapper who can sing. He more than pulls it off, but he doesn't quite have the vocal ability to captivate listeners they way say...Cee-Lo does.
Love. In an interview, K-Os said that he wrote and recorded this album in Halifax, Nova Scotia (which is a maritime province off the Atlantic coast of Canada, for our southern readers wondering how I power my computer inside my igloo) because he wanted a more organic and natural sound. The goal with Atlantis: Hymns for Discos was to create music he loved. He didn't want to make a record on his computer, so we have a real life-inspired score fuelled by live instruments. Only the Roots Crew could express such love as K-Os does with "Sunday Morning," and "Ballad of Noah." Not that these sound anything like them, they're just, well you know. Plus with the US release of the album you've got this dope ass bonus track "Funky Country."
Now let's get something straight. This isn't a perfect LP. And I refuse to waste my time on the whole absolutely retarded "is it or is it not a Hip Hop classic" discussion. But if there's one undeniable attribute of K-Os' Atlantis: Hymns for Disco, it is that, much like his career thus far, it is a labor of love. This is the type of record that has the power to remind people why they love music. It's as if they'd be listening to De La Soul. Not that he sounds anything like them...yeah. He's good.