It’s hard not to roll your eyes when you hear someone say they’re a “conscious hip-hop artist.” Those who make music on the other end of the spectrum are socially conscious, too, even if they’re considered “gangsta.” But if such a thing as “conscious hip-hop” exists, are the messages a bit hypocritical?
Welcome to Joyful Rebellion, the sophomore album from Toronto’s one-man superstar K-Os. In twelve tracks, K-Os continuously bashes emcees and complains about the wrongdoings of hip-hop today. A bit complacent compared to Exit, his 2003 debut, and K-Os occasionally comes off as trying too hard while proclaiming his message, which we’ve all heard before. That said, the music on Joyful Rebellion is wondrous. It’s snappy with jangling tambourines, Friday night hip beats and ass-hot saxophone (“Crabbuckit”), while the mandolins and sitar on “Love Song” add eloquence the his fluid raps.
The album’s reggae feel adds depth, especially on “Crucial,” when K-Os swoons, “I don’t wanna change the world/ I only want to stop pretending.” But possibly the best track on the album is “Dirty Water,” where Sam “Bryan Adams the Second” Roberts steps up and sings a determined melodic chorus.
K-Os may have a message on Joyful Rebellion, but his music seems to be saying more than a lot of his words.