Review Summary: It’s not going to change your life, but after just a listen or two, you’ll find you can’t help but sing along
You know the song “Wavin’ Flag,” an inspiring track that was chosen as the official song of the 2010 World Cup because it’s both moving and incredibly catchy. But after a couple listens to his second studio album in its entirety, it barely even stands out.
You don’t listen to K’naan very long without learning a lot about him. He grew up in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, at a time when it was both extremely dangerous and poor, before spending a few years in the United States and ultimately settling in Canada; his own experiences make up the vast majority of what he raps about. This rare combination of such unique experiences and the ability to write about them so artfully sets K’naan apart from his contemporaries. Perhaps his mantra is best described in the very personal track “Somalia” where he states:
A lot of main stream niggas is yappin’ about yappin’
A lot of underground niggas is rappin’ about rappin’
I just wanna tell you what’s really crackalackan
Before the tears came down this is what happened
Troubadour is an album that virtually anyone can enjoy and is replete with songs that are all quite good (excepting perhaps ‘America’). Yet it is difficult to consider the album any better than good, however, because though initially appealing, his music doesn’t resonate very much in the months or even the weeks after it catches on – as much as you would like it to. Still, when you find yourself rocking out to “TIA” and easing up for “Take a Minute” you can’t deny that the album is a lot of fun.
“Yeah believe it or not / what kept me alive is my dreams” K’naan says in the intro to the song “Dreamer”, appealing to the John Lennon in all of us. I am a diehard Beatles fan, but Lennonite or not, the beat in this song is contagious. Plus, how many single guys out there don’t have “a dream girl in my mind that’s the hook / An intellectual, sexual and still can cook”?
“I come prepared” is similarly minded and unsurprisingly one of his most popular tracks. “If Rap Gets Jealous”, another album single that also appears on his debut album, features an appearance Metallica lead guitar / songwriter Kirk Hammett. Yet if you look below, I consider neither these 2 songs nor Wavin’ Flag to be one of my 4 favorite tracks for the album, showing you just how DEEP this album runs. Virtually everyone who gives this album a chance winds up connecting with a different set of songs.
A great many of his songs contain similarly poignant and relevant social criticisms as well as display his insightful point of view. If I flushed them out any further here, this music review might turn into a critique on our current society – you’d do better to give the album that Nas and Damian Marley cite as a major influence a listen. As a philosopher, K’naan more than deserves the high praise given to him – I wish his music didn’t begin to stale after a couple dozen listens.
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