Troubadour : K’naan

“Troubadour” (K’naan)

Never heard of this artist, but sounds interesting enough to check out.

Barry Walters of Rolling Stone writes:

Somalia-raised, Toronto-based rapper K’naan thinks like Bob Marley, flows like Eminem and mixes African music with conscious hip-hop, unabashed pop and even metal. The results are usually catchy and interesting: On “ABC’s,” K’naan contrasts North American gangster fantasies with his war-torn childhood, trading verses with old-school MC Chubb Rock, and then rocks out with Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett on “If Rap Gets Jealous.” Over the timely upbeat funk of “Dreamer,” he sees the utopia of John Lennon’s “Imagine” through a hip-hop lens: Troubadour is K’naan’s unique vision made real.

[From Troubadour : K’naan : Review : Rolling Stone]

Amazon’s blurb:

The name alone conjures up images of unbridled destruction, merciless warlords and ruthless terror. A place where nobody–children, the elderly, religious figures–is safe from the atrocities of war, and where the idea of “childhood,” where 8-year olds handle AK-47s like toys, exists in chronological terms alone. When Forbes magazine recently unveiled their “Most Dangerous Destinations,” Somalia–above Iraq and Afghanistan–topped the list. But it’s also “The Nation of Poets,” where a poem can both inspire peace and end wars. Where every weekend, regardless of the climate, one can find a play or concert at a local theatre.

Growing up, it was both of these Somalias that informed musician/emcee K’naan Warsame, whose sophomore album, Troubadour, is released this February. The grandson of Haji Mohamed, one of Somalia’s most famous poets, and nephew of famed Somali singer Magool, the emcee is creating his own musical path through reggae, funk, pop, soul and, above all, hip-hop.

Recorded primarily in Kingston, Jamaica, at the legendary Tuff Gong studios and Bob Marley’s home studio, Troubadour is a hip-hop album like no other. With contributions by Damian Marley, Mos Def, Chubb Rock, Vernon Reid, and Adam Levine (Maroon 5), K’naan successfully blends samples and live instrumentation for a sound that’s rooted in both traditional African melodies and the classic hip-hop tradition.

It would be easy to brand K’naan with the “political rapper” tag. But that’d be both easy and disingenuous. K’naan’s lyrics lie in stark contrast to emcees that use their medium as a pulpit to promote their beliefs. “My job is to write just what I see / So a visual stenographer is who I be,” he rhymes in “I Come Prepared.” Doubtless, K’naan is not without his opinions, but songwriting always comes before sermons.

On Troubadour, events like these don’t need to be glorified or exaggerated for the sake of art. “I think there are some people that are struggling in ‘hoods [in Canada and America], but it is so much harder and so much more violent [in Somalia],” says K’naan. “If you want to be like, ‘I’m from the hood. We got it rough. We got gats,’ I think you should know the alternative exists. I’m speaking in the same language of hip-hop which decidedly speaks about rough neighborhoods. So if there is a place for rough neighborhoods, then here comes the Mother of Rough Neighborhoods.”

Troubadour represents the sum of these experiences and more. Having spent the better part of the last two years on the road, soaking in everything from Bob Dylan to Fela Kuti to Talib Kweli, K’naan here releases the sonic document of an artist who has a lot to share now, but clearly a lot more to come. For anyone who’s said that hip-hop has nothing left to say, Troubadour proves that it all depends on where you look.

Good stuff

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