Early this year, the intriguing rap-rocker k-os released Black on Blonde, a double album of half rock music and half hip-hop. Recently, Brad Wheeler spoke to the GTA-raised recording artist about music that is not simply black or white.
You put out 20 songs, on two discs, which seems excessive. Did your record label attempt to talk you out of it?
No, no. The label was involved after the creative process.
Why not roll out a few singles, instead of a double album? Does anyone have the attention span for all those songs at once any more?
Let me put it this way. Putting out a double album these days is like phoning a girl instead of texting her. It’s a risky thing. Initially, she might not pick up. She might like the space of just texting, which is the equivalent of single tracks. But if you get through to her and you have a great conversation, that will make you stand out. I guarantee you that.
K-os is old school?
It takes you back to 1966, with a girl on a phone in her bedroom, and she puts a record on. I’m using women as an example, because a relationship is very much tantamount to music. It’s my girlfriend. So, texting is cool. Singles are cool. But if you give people a good conversation, which is what a great album is, that’s worth more in the long run.
The long run? You really are old school.
Well, if you’re just into it for the dollar or the quick hit, then, sure, put out your singles. But I’m in this for the long run. It’s already been 10 years now. An album is a conversation that will never end.
You’re talking about legacy, right?
Exactly. I’m a Dylan fan. I’m going to buy an album. And Black on Blonde is my Blonde on Blonde.
The title, Black on Blonde, is a reference to you, a black musician, putting out and album that’s half rock music, right?
I love rock music. This record is for all the kids in future generations will look back and think “Wow, there’s this black guy who put out rock music, which makes it okay for me to do it.” Hopefully we’ll get to a point where we no longer feel that rock music is white music. When, actually, it’s the other way around.
You mean African-American blues being the root of rock n’ roll?
Yeah. But, I mean, no slight to anyone who’s not black. You didn’t steal anything. You just embodied something and loved it so much that it became yours. But somebody needs to stand up and say, “Look, this comes from African rhythms.”
So, the lineage is Bo Diddley, Jimi Hendrix, Vernon Reid and you?
Well, no. I like what Cody Chestnutt did. I like what Lenny Kravitz did. And Prince recently put out a a single called Screwdriver that just rocks. So, me? I’m just the little brother of Prince and Lenny Kravitz. If those guys didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be here.
K-os plays the Danforth Music Hall, April 5, 9 p.m. $34. 147 Danforth Ave., 1-855-985-5000 or ticketmaster.ca.