Canada is not a country that would spring to most people’s minds as a hotbed of hip-hop, but over the last few decades, it has produced a disproportionate amount of great music in a genre dominated by American acts.
One genre-crossing act who caught my ear a few years ago is k-os. While some argue that he spends too much time singing to be considered a true rapper, I think his 2004 album “Joyful Rebellion” is one of the catchiest and most sonically interesting Canadian releases of the past ten years. Most songs on the album are, true to its title, either joyful or rebellious, but right in the middle is this track: a quiet, almost mournful reflection on the state of hip-hop.
What makes this a beautiful song:
1. The organ. With the religious undertones in the song’s title and its lyrical references to Babylon, the organ was the perfect choice for filling out the sound.
2. Halfway through, he seems to give up on the words. K-os famously suffers from narcolepsy, and I can’t help but think he was on the verge of sleep during the recording of this song. But in a song about being disillusioned, it works.
3. The chaotic drums towards the end. Rather than fade out, the song disintegrates, in keeping with the message of a hip-hop industry that promotes its own worst stereotypes, and is slowly collapsing in on itself.
Recommended listening activity:
Watering a plant that looks too small to survive.