For all the gangster bravado that stateside rappers ooze, K’naan doesn’t have to pretend: he grew up in Somalia, where there hasn’t been a functional government for about a dozen years, there are pirates (like, for-real pirates) prowling the coast and large segments of the country are ruled by warlords. He brings a different perspective and plenty of musical creativity to "Troubadour."
Somalian rapper K’naan sounds a little like Mos Def’s hyper little brother, and I mean that as the highest of compliments. Not only does he sound like Mos, but he also brings the same flair for injecting some serious creativity into his musical backing… albeit without the occasional hard-rock cover.
Troubador kicks off with “T.I.A.,” which churns together an uptempo, doomsday dancehall beat, buzzing keyboards and a sped-up Bob Marley chanting “Simmer down!” as K’naan decries the state of his homeland.
It’s potent subject matter. For all the gangster bravado that stateside rappers ooze, K’naan doesn’t have to pretend: Somalia hasn’t had a functional government for about a dozen years, there are pirates (like, for-real pirates) prowling the coast, and large segments of the country are ruled by warlords. Fiddy Cent, take note: that’s gangsta.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. Witness the chorus of the driving “Dreamer”: “I’m a dreamer/But I’m not the only one/I got problems/But we love to have fun/This is our world/From here to your hood/We alive, man/It’s okay to feel good!”
Marley’s son Damian drops by for the rusty, syncopated dancehall of “I Come Prepared,” and in back-to-back “Wha…?” moments, Maroon 5’s Adam Levine and Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett drop by for guest appearances.
In "Troubadour’s" best moment, Mos and Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na guest on the bouncy “America,” where K’naan employs the traditional guitar-and-percussion sound of northern Africa and raps in his native tongue.
It would be easy to pigeonhole K’naan as a political rapper, but it’s probably more appropriate to call him worldly and informed. He certainly brings a different perspective to the traditional hip-hop theme of growing up hard, and has the lyrical prowess to keep things interesting.
Listen to samples from "Troubadour" at Amazon.com.