Posted on May 11th, 2009
Categorized | Featured, Killahbeez Interviews, Music
K-OS is cool. For starters, heís currently on his Karma Tour, where advance tickets arenít being sold because youíre to simply show up, enjoy the show, and then donate what you think the show was worth on your way out. Talk about taking a huge risk. Secondly, he held and online contest where people could remix 11 tracks from his latest album, YES! At the end of it all, 11 people won $1000 and their remixes will be part of an album coming out spring 2009 called Yes Itís Yours (Fan Remix Album). Thirdly, K-OS chatted with us a few days ago and let us pick his brain.
Killahbeez: So are you all ready and pumped for your YES! tour?
K-OS: Hype, hype, super excited.
Killahbeez: Right now youíre touring for your latest album YES! What can people expect?
K-OS: This tour is aboutÖ.Iíll just say it like thisÖan interesting prop weíre working with is a stoplight that weíre going to have on stage. The stoplight is interesting because all of my records from the green, the amber, now weíre at the red, and then Atlantis kind of interjecting between that with the blue.
The key of this hour and a half show is to take the best from all the albums and make them seamlessly just fit. Itís about weaving through the catalogue of the records in a way that makes it seem like all of the songs are married to each other especially when there have been so many differences. The interesting thing to find out was that after we rehearsed, it really wasnít that hard. Thereís been a theme with all the music so youíre basically allowed to go anywhere because there is no real limit to what the records or music have to sound like.
We got a new bass player whoís playing keyboard bass which Iíve never had so the sonics are different. Super excited to take this crew of dudes out and handle business. Itís going to be fun.
Nothing should sound forced or awkward and I think thatís why we rehearsed for a month, to work out the kinks. You can write a set list down on a piece of paper but then when you try to play it that way it just doesnít feel right. We did that, it happened many times. Iím glad we had the time to rehearse and figure it out.
Killahbeez: Whatís the whole battle of the sexes thing about?
K-OS: That was earlier on. That battle is over, how about that?
The battle of the sexes started with me and my mother. She tried to tell me what I could do and couldnít do and Iím a boy, my father wasnít around for a couple years of my life, part of my formative years, and here was this woman trying to tell me what to do. As a young boy that was a very hard thing to handle, but she did rule with an iron fist and she did prevail. I think some of my best qualities, sheís an artist and a singer, come from her.
If it starts there, all my life thereís always been this thing where, how do you relate to people who come into your life of the opposite sex who are also musicians or who are artists? The battle starts there with other people who do what I do and trying to find a way to come together or not even sometimes, you compete with each other and I think thatís what that ď4 3 2 1″ song is basically talking about. You always hear that term we can make love or make war, itís a very true thing.
For me when I say itís over itís because being asked the question so many times I kind of figured out that itís really a battle within my own self. I think hip hop represents the masculine capacities of my identity and singing, which I get from my mother, represents the feminine aspects of my persona. Those two aspects are always trying to punch each other out. Hip Hop is always like, youíre singing too much, just chill, just rap over a beat, you donít need to sing. And singing is like, you know what, singing is an older art, weíll take it from here. And then all that comes into music.
All battles start from within and Iím dealing with it through my music.
Killahbeez: Youíve been through multiple eras of hip hop, from your early years with ďMusical EssenceĒ to your latest album YES!, from Maestro Fresh West to the Northern Touch era with Rascalz, Kardinal, Threat, and Choclair. How have you managed to evolve and stay relevant in an industry that seems to give artists a certain shelf life? How do you define yourself?
K-OS: Because I love other types of music outside of hip hop. Busta Rhymes said something like hip hop never comes from hip hop. For a time it was coming from soul music: Wu Tang and those guys. Then Pete Rock and A Tribe Called Quest sampled jazz. Then dudes were sampling classical and then Spanish music.
What is hip hop? Itís a music that takes a turn table and takes other music. What started to happen right after the Golden Age around Ď96, Ď97, Ď98, when Puffy and these guys came out making dance music for clubs, weekend music for people who worked hard all weekend and wanted to dance in the clubs on the weekend, hip hop started to take from itself because someone saw someone making money so someone samples the same thing and then people started to mimic each other. Instead of trying to find that original breaking sample that would blow peopleís minds, people started to sample a sample or make a beat like the next guy, and so hip hop ate itself.
Kanye West basically, no matter what anyone says, when he did Through the Wire, it was a sample. He brought it back to sampling and thatís when things started to change again. He started sampling in an original way, he didnít do it because Through the Wire was a hit, he did it because he wanted to bring that music into hip hop.
For me itís different because I have a live band so itís not really about sampling but itís about maybe playing something from Iggy Pop or maybe listening to a band like Mars Volta or something that has nothing to do with hip hop at all and then trying to rap onto it. All my records and going into the next era starts with me looping something that Iím not supposed to rap on. At my house, Iíll put on headphones and rap over it for twenty minutes just to see how it feels. All of a sudden youíve brought that thing into the hip hop universe.
I think thatís how Iíve been able to continue: I love hip hop. Hip Hop to me is a mystery, itís like the Riddler, it has a question mark, it is whatever you want it to be as oppose to me looking at hip hop like, I gottaí wear these clothes man, I gottaí wear that hat, I can only wear these colours, and I can only use these slang words. I never look at hip hop like that. To me itís very much more mystical than that.
Killahbeez: Speaking of incorporating other music styles into your own, you just recently worked with Emily Haines from Metric, and Metric is just blowing up right now, theyíre huge. How was it working with her?
K-OS: Emily is a friend and weíve been trying to work together for a long time. It was something that was in the works for a long time. Iíve spent time in the studio with her before. Itís hard to perceive it like that, yeah itís like everythingís sort of happening at the same time, and itís good, Iím glad sheís on my record, and Murray Lightburn is also on that track, from the Dears, not to be overshadowed because he helped write the track, but all those things come from friendships based on hanging out. Also too just wanting to work together and being fans of each other. Sometimes in a way that outweighs the friendship where a guy might be more excited to get on a track with you as an artist instead wanting to be your friend. Itís those two factors dancing with each other that make it an interesting dynamic.
Killahbeez: Any future collaborations in mind or are you just busy with YES! for now?
K-OS: All the artists I know are so finicky and snooty that we canít plan anything [laughs]. You can say itís going to go down but if itís not the right day, climate, or the space to do it, itís not going to happen. I just let it go and keep it as spontaneous as possible.
Killahbeez: So Iím not sure if my next question is relevant or not but do you notice a big difference between the Canadian and American music scenes and audiences?
K-OS: I canít pontificate on the American scene because Iíve only toured America once with the Gym Class Heroes and I was the opening band. The people I got to see were through them and I did get to see the country because it was an extensive tour. I learnt that America shouldnít be as pigeonholed as the world makes it, itís a beautiful place.
As far as the music scenes go, I was reading Rolling Stone yesterday and thought, how many years have I been reading this magazine and America is just a place in a book to me. Iíve never spent time there. Iíve hung out in L.A., Chicago, New York, but Iíve never fully committed. Iím kind of like somebody who goes into the front seat of a car and always has his hand on the door handle, like Iím ready to jump out, as soon as the car slows down and thereís a corner, Iím out.
What Iíve heard from other people is that America is different [from Canada] in the way they see celebrities and how they see the star-machine. I know for sure that Canadians are super nonchalant just from friends who are musicians, artists, or celebrities, who say, no one bugs me in Canada, I could be somewhere and people recognize me but they just walk by me. Whereas in America its stop, stop, stop, picture, picture, picture. I think Canada has a little less tenacity when it comes to trying to jump on celebrities or something thatís popular. Canada seems a little more if-y in that way. Maybe that makes us a little uptight sometimes but I think it makes us a little bit cooler as well.
Killahbeez: On Killahbeez we have a fashion/style section. Iíve noticed that you hide behind shades here and there. Can you describe the evolution of your style? Is it whatever, I donít care, this is what Iím going to wear today!
K-OS: Iím starting to care less about what those conventions are supposed to mean. The sunglasses do come out still but thatís boring too now. Iíll be honest: most of the things I do is just because Iím bored. Even when I started wearing sunglasses, I just wanted to see what it would be like; people treat you differently. They canít see what youíre thinking through so you get different responses. Itís a good social science experiment. Much of what I do with fashion and style have nothing to do with fashion and style, theyíre just experiments. What if I press this button rightÖ.here! [laughs]
I think to the person whoís observing, it might be like wow, this guyís original or whatever they want to call it. Most times Iím operating from a sense of social scientist just trying to get a reaction mostly for myself because I get bored. You walk around society and you get the same responses all the times and questions, you might want to do something to your physical or wear something that invokes a different response.
Killahbeez: So when you are relaxing at home tonight, what are you going to listen to? What are your musical inspirations?
K-OS: Two things as of late. Chamber/classical music calms me down and reminds me of my father. He would come home and throw on classical music, he didnít want to talk, and you couldnít say anything for the first hour or two that he was home, he would just chill out.
Also, Zen music. Some weird, eastern, Asian music.
Mostly when I want to chill I just like music with no vocals; not invaded by personality at all. Just music, just tones, I have a lot to learn in that aspect as well so by listening to a lot of instrumental music I learn a lot about music.
Killahbeez: So I have one last request and you might totally shut me down. Can you rap something for Killahbeez?
K-OS: You want me to rap something right now? I donít know about that. For that to really work, I really have to just do it when I feel it.
Send me your email, if Iím vibing around Iíll send you something!
Killahbeez: Thanks so much for the interview. Itís been one of my best.
K-OS: I do a lot of these, I love it. Talking about yourself for hours upon end teaches you so much about yourself. I appreciate the questions. Thank-you!