k-os’ “Superstarr Pt. Zero” Declared The Jiggy Era Dead & Restored Order To Hip-Hop (Video)
MC/singer k-os was not the first Canadian Hip-Hop artist to gain international mainstream attention, and he clearly is not the last. However, in 2002, at a time when the genre was well aware of its own geographic expansion, this Toronto, Ontario native proved regardless of where he or she was from, a clever MC could show the world where Hip-Hop was.
By the time k-os (a/k/a Kevin Brereton) released his debut album Exit in 2002, he had been releasing music for nearly a decade. In the mid-1990s, the MC was actually managed by NBA star (and four-time champion) John Salley, who encountered the T-Dot spitter in his brief time with the Raptors. Despite work with Raphael Saadiq (still of Tony! Toni! Toné! at the time) and Rascalz, the ’90s came and went, and k-os was contained.
In the 2000s, having reportedly scrapped a number of recorded albums on a host of different situations, k-os would re-tool his approach. As the story goes, the nimble MC made an album strictly for himself, and upon its recording, Astralwerks/Virgin/EMI Records signed the quiet veteran. Released nearly a whole year in Canada before the LP went stateside, Exit was a concept album designed to be a lean-back experience.
“Superstarr Pt. Zero” would be the entry mass-portal to Exit. The second-to-last track on the 15-cut offering followed the Reggae-tinged “Superstarr Part one (Yoshua’s Song)” (as it was stylized). “Superstarr part 2 (Babylon Girl)” was even more toned down—with an Oasis bend. While those two songs were purely a showcase of Kevin as a singer-songwriter, the later cut—with the earlier title—is what hooked in Stateside audiences. “Part Zero” began with a declaration of “the end of the jiggy era, people on planet earth are tired” Just as fellow major-backed Underground Hip-Hop MCs like Mos Def and Eminem were pounding on the Top 40 understanding of the culture, k-os got in a few punches of his own. He was not out to make friends in high places—and people seemed to respond well with that courage.
Moreover, the song kicks lyrics about restoring Hip-Hop’s rawness. The MC flips fast bars—that matches his footwork in the visual. He touts drug-free living, “whatever the cost, I don’t floss” anti-materialism, and calling out sucker MC’s.
Self-produced, the song flips SoHo’s “Hot Music” from the 1989 12″ Dance music hit that fused House and Jazz. Beyond just looping, k-os employed a sweet, soothing chorus that transcended the record out of Hip-Hop preservation into an uplifting message for all. Seven years before collaborator Drake’s impact, k-os was a damn good MC and singer. Moreover, at a time when Hip-Hop’s expansion seemed focused towards the Southeast and Texas, k-os shined a light from the mighty North.
For the video, k-os carried all the iconography of a B-Boy. Adidas shell-toes, boom-boxes, up-rock moves colored the way for a video that also paid homage to Bob Dylan’s famed 1965 “Subterranean Homesick Blues” music video. An unknown on the TV screens to many, Kevin made a powerful first impression with a song about fighting back. For the record-buying, new-artist seeking crowd of 2002-2003, k-os represented in a chamber somewhere between Q-Tip and Jeru The Damaja. However, those willing to give Exit support or a curious listen heard an MC/singer all of his own. Also, don’t miss the manifesto at the top of visual—only adding to k-os combative approach, and declarative style.