K-OS: The School of McCartney

Canadian songwriter/producer K-OS follows up his groundbreaking sophomore album, Joyful Rebellion, with Atlantis: Hymns for Disco-a daring exhibit of what life in hip-hop could truly be, when you are comfortable in your own skin. As a songwriter, K-OS is a strong believer in the power of melody.

Canadian songwriter/producer K-OS follows up his groundbreaking sophomore album, Joyful Rebellion, with Atlantis: Hymns for Disco-a daring exhibit of what life in hip-hop could truly be, when you are comfortable in your own skin. As a songwriter, K-OS is a strong believer in the power of melody. His first single from the latest album, “Sunday Morning,” is as infectious as any sports stadium classic, without the aggressive interrogation that revolves around figuring out who left the gate open.

“I’ve learned that there is a certain amount of logic between a lyric and a melody that is really uncalculated,” says the 2005 Juno Awards “Single of the Year” (Crabbuckit”) winner. “When a melody can harness and represent the magic of the lyric that you’re reciting…that’s when the power of songwriting becomes so amazing. That power is something that you have to wait to ascend upon you. Like any Bob Marley song for example…his lyrics blend perfectly with the melody, and that is what I feel is the reason why his music speaks in such a magical way to people.”

Even though K-OS’ musical resumé stems as far back as 1993, it was a hiatus he took from the music industry in 1996 that helped shape him into the songwriter that he is today. “I took that break out of years of frustration and thinking at the age of 25 that it was over,” says the evolving, emerging hip-hop artist. “After I secured a record deal, I listened back to one of my CDs and threw it against the wall-the CD exploded into pieces on contact-saying that it was bullshit. The reason I felt that way was because I didn’t mean what I was saying. I was listening to everything that ranged from The Fugees to OutKast, and I realized that I was just saying what I thought my heroes would say.

“The truth was that none of those lyrics were mine; I didn’t own any of it. And that’s when I started to take off all of the disguises-the Triple Fat Gooses and everything else that I was hiding behind. I went back to my childhood to look over things that I’d written when I was 15. I listened to my old recordings before I had a perception of what hip-hop was. I became truthful with myself. I realized that, hey, I really like The Eagles. Hey, I really like The Beatles. Hey, I really like Frank Sinatra. So when I got back to the songwriting process, my lyrics were coming out through hip-hop, but now there were different influences driving my sound. So that’s what happened when I took my time off; I stopped being embarrassed by my musical influences and finally began to use those influences to my advantage.”

Now that K-OS has found his way, you’d be hard pressed to find a more confident songwriter out there. “I come from the Paul McCartney school of songwriting; he started off his process by writing down titles. If Paul saw something interesting in a restaurant, he’d write it down on a napkin. He would have 10 titles and then start going after the [song] from there. I am a late bloomer to that technique, but I think that melodies are divine. If you grasp onto a great melody, the song will write itself.”

Dealing with writer’s block just might be the biggest pain for songwriters on a universal scale, but for K-OS, it isn’t even in his top 3 of worries. “I feel that repetition for the sake of success is the No. 1 enemy of any songwriter,” K-OS says in closing. “Not repetition in regards to when you listen to certain George Clinton records and pick up a similar rhythm…but repetition for the sake of not wanting to change because you fear that you won’t have the same success you achieved in the past.”

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