K-OS at the TORONTO URBAN MUSIC FESTIVAL Sunday (August 26), 5:45 pm, CNE Bandshell (Exhibition Place), $6-$9. www.wordmag.com Rating: NNNNN
By his count, Toronto MC/singer/producer K-OS has been working on his solo debut for 29 years.
In that time, he released just two singles, both in the mid-90s, and then retired from the music industry before he even really got started.
In 1999, K-OS returned to the scene, headlining an electrifying NXNE showcase that mixed rootsy hiphop with deep soul and had many in the room calling the 29-year-old the next Lauryn Hill for his twin-pronged beats-and-soul approach. Now, after some bizarre label woes, the hottest name in Canadian hiphop/soul that no one's heard is finally emerging from the shadows.
Two years in the making, K-OS's debut album, Exit, is tentatively scheduled for a November release. Predictably, the soft-spoken MC is thrilled that the wait is finally over, though he's having a hard time describing what he's spent his life creating.
"For me, Exit represents a way out of the hiphop reality we're in right now," K-OS offers prior to his set at Sunday's Toronto Urban Music Festival at the CNE. "It's for people who want to go somewhere else. There's everything on there from foundation reggae to soul music to hiphop.
"The one thing that ties the songs together is lyrics. This is a record for people who are into something being said. Yes, it's aesthetically pleasing and well-produced, but this is a record about substance."
Clearly, after having much of the album completed for a year and a half, the process of putting a record out has worn on the MC -- so much so that he's considering packing it in after Exit drops.
"I feel like this is my first and last record," K-OS insists. "I don't believe it's about making four more records after this. I'm not interested in having to go through the whole process of evolving and growing up in the public eye. The Roots came out with Do You Want More?!!!??! and then went underground, and then all commercial. No thanks."