A depiction of a musician’s struggle between genres and experimental niches, k-os’ long awaited album, BLack on BLonde, can appeal to nearly everyone. But let’s be real, while the Canadian artist has been widely known for his experimentation and blend of hip-hop, R&B and rock and roll, a double album was a pretty risky move. The first disc consists of steady, traditional hip hop and some R&B tracks (representing the BLack), and the second with an eclectic mix of indie rock rhythms, psychedelic guitars and faint traces of folk (representing the BLonde). Nevertheless, k-os remains one of the most respected and challenging musical artists in Canada.
The record was preceded by two teaser singles: the brilliant rock-influenced, ‘The Dog is Mine’, and the a-tad-too-radio-friendly, ‘Nyce 2 Know Ya’. In making the album, k-os manages to assemble an array of Canadian musical heavyweights, from Sam Roberts to Saukrates to Shad to Bedouin Soundclash’s Jay Malinowski. But he’s also got some random ones: Corey Hart? Really? The infectious ‘One Time’ features the beautiful and talented Emily Haines of Metric (the track is elegantly stylized as ‘One Time (HainesVox)’). Even George Stroumboulopoulos finds time to deliver a solid introduction to ‘The Dog is Mine’. And I can’t even talk about ‘Try Again’, which features Black Thought of The Roots, whose verse, in my opinion, remains the highlight of the album.
The album has a habit of interchanging its appeal, though, with a few songs that seem to try too hard, to moments of absolute brilliance. ‘C.L.A’’s dance pop elements and guest appearance by Travie McCoy started off the album as a bit of a letdown at track three, but may allow it to find its way on the radio. ‘Spraying My Pen’, however, instills a calming and smooth experience, with easy melodies and intelligent and relatable lyrical content. The two-way ‘Nobody Else’ begins with soft folk guitars heading into vintage hip-hop beats. The last two tracks send the listener to a time of decades passed, with just enough hip-hop elements, with the psychedelic love song, ‘Wonder Woman (As My Guitar Gently Streets)’, and the closing track, ‘BLondes’, reminiscent of early progressive rock.
Don’t write off that Corey Hart track, though (‘Like a Comet [We Rollin’]’), It’ll creep up and grow on you.