For an artist long characterized by stylistic and cultural dichotomies, Canadian rap elder statesman k-os's decision to embrace, and encapsulate, those once conflicting fissures, in the form of a double album, while potentially perilous, feels like a logical proposition. Split into two disparate collections of rap and rock, BLack On BLonde finally leaves the now multi-instrumentalist singer/MC free to fully explore the many rock-based inklings we've heard sprout up over the years and, for the BLonde portion, k-os largely shines. Quizzical folk-rock ditties and driving, key- and guitar-led stompers each play competently around the lamenting, reverb-soaked "Wonder Woman," anchoring a solid second disc, which could have stood respectably on its own despite its short length.
"Mellowing out" after his move from Toronto to Vancouver, Canadian rapper K-Os decides that genre ain't nuthin' but a major category header, and that millennial artists aren't bound by such labels, so let the rap-rocking and rock-rapping begin, and then sequester it. BLack on BLonde is a conceptual piece, putting all its more rap-oriented material on the "Black" disc and all its more rock-oriented material on its "Blonde" disc, but with more highlights falling toward the front, these two discs just beg to be shuffled. It makes for a big and a bit cumbersome listen, but K-Os is best when he's true to his moniker, offering the listener an unpredictable and unclassifiable blitzkrieg of ideas that range from clever to brilliant.
Any time an artist employs a list of supporting characters for an album as diverse as aging new waver Corey Hart, the Roots lead MC Black Thought and quintessential everyman rocker Sam Roberts, it’s safe to assume that the album in question is going to be an ambitious one. And BLack on BLonde is just that: ambitious in scope. It’s something of a rite of passage for multi-dimensional artists such as Canadian hip hop (though that’s a limiting term itself) MC k-os, once they hit a certain age or stage in their career to become reflective on their body of work.
A few years ago, k-os announced he was done making albums. Instead, he said, he would stick to online singles. But like Billy Corgan (who made a similar promise), k-os deals more in grand pronouncements than subtle statements. The Toronto rapper has, in fact, gone in the other direction, with a hefty double album designed to showcase all of his modes.