K-os | The Canadian Encyclopedia



K-os (né Kevin Brereton), rap artist, songwriter, singer, producer (born 20 February 1972 in Trinidad and Tobago). K-os' inventive sound has been classified as "alternative hip hop," and draws influence from rock, pop, soul, jazz, reggae, R&B, and electronic music. He writes his own material and his albums are largely self-produced.
K-os, Rap Musician
(courtesy Universal Music Canada)

K-os, pronounced "chaos," is an acronym for "knowledge of self." K-os moved to Whitby, Ont, at age four. He returned to Trinidad for part of his childhood and overcame his homesickness by immersing himself in music, particularly North American Top 40 radio. K-os moved back to Whitby in his teens and developed his interest in hip hop. He attended Carleton University and York University briefly, before turning exclusively to music.


K-os' inventive sound has been classified as "alternative hip hop," and draws influence from rock, pop, soul, jazz, reggae, R&B, and electronic music. He writes his own material and his albums are largely self-produced. K-os' tracks are upbeat and melodious, and are produced primarily with a live band instead of with samples and programmed instruments. His predilection for social commentary is revealed in his lyrics, which are highly personal and often articulate his position on the state of modern hip hop. K-os has been compared to artists such as André 3000 and Missy Elliot, who have helped revolutionize traditional hip hop in the US.

Early Career

K-os' introduction to the Canadian music industry came in 1993, when the video for his first independent single, "Musical Essence," began to receive regular airplay on MuchMusic. In 1995 k-os was asked to perform in the cross-Canada Hip Hop Explosion tour, and the following year he released a video for his second independent single, "Rise Like The Sun." The video's popularity garnered k-os a recording contract offer from BMG, which was later retracted due to changes in management. Despite his frustration, k-os continued to write and record tracks. By 1999 he had appeared on the Rascalz' Global Warming album and had compiled a tape of acoustic songs with Namedropper guitarist Russ Klyne. K-os began performing these for record company executives, and after receiving a number of offers, signed with Capitol Records in 2000.


K-os' debut album, Exit (2002, EMI Music Canada DPRO 2176), expressed his discontent with popular hip-hop culture and attempted to dispel the racial stereotypes perpetuated by some of his contemporaries. After the album failed to achieve the anticipated social impact, k-os became disheartened with the music industry. In 2003 he was invited to open for The Roots on their European tour, an experience which both inspired him and restored his faith in hip hop. Upon returning to Toronto, k-os began writing new material. The resulting album, Joyful Rebellion (2004, Virgin Music 7243 578758 2 0), was critically acclaimed and included the hit singles "Crabbuckit," "Man I Used To Be," and "B-Boy Stance." Atlantis: Hymns For Disco (2006, Virgin Music) was more pop-oriented than k-os' previous albums, and featured appearances by Sam Roberts, Buck 65, Kevin Drew, and Sebastien Grainger.


The hit single from Exit, "Heaven Only Knows," garnered k-os awards for hip-hop recording of the year and songwriter of the year at the 2002 Canadian Urban Music Awards. K-os was named best international hip-hop artist at the 2003 Source Awards, and was awarded hip-hop recording of the year at the 2004 Canadian Urban Music Awards. In 2005 he won Juno Awards for rap recording of the year (Joyful Rebellion), single of the year ("Crabbuckit"), and video of the year ("B-Boy Stance"). K-os' collaboration with The Chemical Brothers, the song "Get Yourself High," was nominated for best dance recording at the 2005 Grammy Awards. In 2007 k-os was nominated for five Juno Awards, including the Jack Richardson producer of the year award. K-os' 2009 album Yes! was nominated for rap recording of the year at the 2010 Junos.

Other Projects

K-os collaborated with the CBC Radio Orchestra to produce the documentary Burning to Shine (Jennifer Ouano, director, 2006). He recorded a cover of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" for Amnesty International's Make Some Noise initiative in 2006.


The Trill: A Journey So Far. 2009. EMI Music Canada

Yes! 2009. Universal Music Canada

Further Reading