Atlantis: Hymns for Disco (EMI)

On his previous album, Joyful Rebellion, Canadian rapper K-os shouted defensive lyrics such as "Hip-hop is not dead; it's the mind of the MC." That particular line got him in trouble with some critics, who saw the Toronto lyricist as a preachy preacher's kid proselytizing the masses. And K-os actually is a preacher's kid; he grew up a Jehovah's Witness, and his raps have a sometimes abrasive touch of fire and brimstone. But after a two-year sabbatical, he seems to have set his personal gripes aside. Atlantis: Hymns for Disco combines a variety of styles that strain the definition of hip-hop, including rock, soul, dub and folk. (It's a welcome change to hear him include more singing.) For "Mirror in the Sky," K-os's lyrics are comical, introspective, bold and personal. "Sunday Morning" is the album's best tune, with its catchy chorus and rock & roll attitude — and that's where Disco has an advantage. Most of his fans already know the man can rap, but the indie-rock instrumentation behind songs such as "Born to Run" is a signal that Canada's most popular MC isn't as fixated on hip-hop as critics think he is. As for the lyrical lectures, his approach is more suave this time — and the result is an album that's as unassuming as it is powerful.

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