On his previous album, Joyful Rebellion
, Canadian rapper k-os shouted defensive lyrics like "Hip-hop is not dead/it's the mind of the MC
." That particular rhyme got him in trouble with critics who saw the Toronto-based lyricist as a preachy preacher's kid proselytizing the masses. And k-os actually is
a preacher's kid. He grew up Jehovah Witness, and his raps have a touch of fire and brimstone that is abrasive to some. But after a two-year sabbatical, he seems to have set his personal gripes aside. His newest release, Atlantis: Hymns for Disco
combines a variety of styles that strain the definition of hip-hop by including rock, soul, dub, and folk. It's a welcome change to hear him include more singing than in the past. The song "Mirror in the Sky" finds k-os penning comical, introspective lyrics that are as bold as they are personal. "Sunday Morning" is the album's best tune with its catchy chorus and rock 'n' roll attitude, and that's where Hymns for Disco
has an advantage. Sonically, most of his fans already know k-os can rap, but to hear the indie-rock instrumentation behind songs like "Born to Run" is a signal that Canada's most popular MC isn't as fixated on hip-hop as critics think he is. As for the lyrical lectures, his approach is more tolerant this time, and the result is an album that's as unassuming as it is powerful.