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Use Your Allusion: Funky Reference - Happy Rapper K.O. Strat Raises The Arcane On Debut Album 'Glass Sandwich'

Updated: Mar 25

Good hip-hop lives and dies on the cleverness of its wordplay. But when it comes to witty namechecks, rapper K.O. Strat is playing in a different league entirely. On his debut album, Glass Sandwich—and its spotlight track, “The Moleskine”—he’s dropping pop-cultural nods so deep they might have stumped even Dennis Miller in his prime.

A short but sweet peek into a restless creative mind, “The Moleskine” packs its 2-minute running time with references to The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Flintstones, Tekken, Metallica’s first album and the Space Shuttle Challenger. Even the title is an IP: It’s the brand name of the notebook in which Strat used to jot down his lyrical ideas and other bursts of inspiration.

“My close friend had gotten me a grossly overpriced but undeniably nice Moleskine notebook as a gift. If he hadn’t, the song might be called ‘The Hilroy,’” he muses.

All of those lyrical footnotes are in the service of an unabashedly boastful paean to the skill with which Strat hits on his ideas and brings them to the mic. As with most of his material, the aim of “The Moleskine” is to combine an almost free-associating stream of self-promotion with geekisms that are delivered with such flow and rhyming technique that you almost don’t notice how nerdy they are. “Sleight-of-hand rap,” he calls it. 

On a musical level, the song basically qualifies as an extended callback of its own. It’s a breezy, finger-snapping little ditty with a sampled acoustic bassline and melodic layers that create what Strat calls “almost a cheat code to appeal to fans of A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets, and other early-’90s jazz-sample-heavy artists.”

A host of such pleasures await on the album proper, a self-produced compilation bookended by two new tracks but otherwise made up of singles the artist has released over the past 4 years. That was when this Thornhill, Ontario native—formerly a breakdancer and audio engineer—was still getting  serious about making music of his own. Now that he’s entered what he’s calling Phase II of his career, the time seemed ripe to issue a musical refresher course that could sum up Phase I while clearing the decks for a deluge of new material he says is coming.

In the meantime, prepare to be dazzled and confounded by plenty of that aforementioned sleight of hand. Glass Sandwich is loaded with brain-teasing mentions, namedropping everything from Canadian rock band Max Webster, Cloris Leachman’s Frau Blücher character from the movie Young Frankenstein and blues great Howlin’ Wolf to professional wrestling, Italian horror movies, the Led Zeppelin concert flick The Song Remains The Same and what Strat calls “more things that only a limited number of people would understand - and how many of them would listen to hip-hop?  

“One of the hallmarks of my music is that I don’t care in the slightest if someone understands what I’m talking about,” he shrugs.

Consider yourself one of the enlightened few if you recognize the album title as being inspired by a Primus song, and the cover art as a mashup of Frank Zappa’s Weasels Ripped My Flesh and the silent classic Nosferatu.

A product of Toronto’s Nekkrak hip-hop collective, Strat classifies his output as “wide-ranging hip hop music made by someone just being themself.” He says to expect more of the same but better in the wake of Glass Sandwich, promising even greater emphasis on the eclectic in everything from samples to style. And if you don’t catch all the references at first, don’t worry: That’s what Google is for.

“The Moleskine”

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