- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Canadian music, of late, has been categorized by pop-influenced rock. Think Avril Lavigne, Sum 41 and Alanis Morissette.

However, there may be a new sound rising from our northern neighbors, judging from Sunday’s performance at the 9:30 Club by Grammy-nominated rapper-producer K-os (born Kevin Brereton), who hails from Toronto.

The multicultural influences of his hometown — a musical tapestry of reggae, funk, soul and flamenco — permeated his 40-minute set, from his opening-track “B-Boy Stance,” which featured scratching by a DJ, to the flamenco guitar-fueled “Commandte.”

Crisscrossing a multitude of musical genres without once losing a beat, K-os took time to honor his musical elders with several covers, including Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road Jack,” Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” and Police’s “Message in a Bottle.”

Backed by a five-piece band, the rising star also presented a barrage of socially conscious rhymes layered with Bob Marley-esque melodies. (He counts the legendary reggae master, along with Echo & the Bunnymen, among his greatest musical influences.)

Like his American contemporaries rappers Mos Def and Common, K-os doesn’t wax poetic about cars, women or the unceasing search for bling. His lyrics radiate with themes of spirituality and love mixed with the positive messages of hip-hop from the not-so-distant past.

Yet he isn’t afraid to address the oft-criticized negative side of hip-hop, which has generated criticism for images that are sometimes violent and misogynistic. He openly broached the controversy with the heartfelt “Emcee Murdah,” powered solely by an acoustic guitar. On it, he rhymes, “Emcees keep fakin’/ Hoping to make the bacon” and “hip-hop’s not dead/ it is only the mind of the MC.”

It could be a while before K-os reaches the status of hip-hop stars such as 50 Cent, though he doesn’t appear to be striving for that level of fame.

He’s already a star in his homeland, and he has put Canada on the hip-hop map — an accomplishment in itself.

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