It was a solid three and a half years ago that Train first introduced me to the Somalian rapper/singer K’Naan. He was a perfect fit for the landscape at the time. He had that sing-songy post-Wyclef swag with verified credibility coming from one of the most dangerous places on the planet. People were still wondering what Matisyahu would do next and hoping Will.I.Am would leave the synthisizer behind, and K’Naan delivered this need.
A few weeks ago K’Naan released his latest album, Country, God or the Girl (Spotify link). And it is fantastic!
K’Naan’s strongest asset is his singing voice. Effortlessly he mixes Lupe Fiasco and Bob Marley. He slides between rapping and singing so easily you are never really comfortable classifying him as either.
Second is his song writing. Granted, K’Naan has been in the States for a long time at this point, and where in past albums I was mesmerized by songs about losing a girlfriend to a landmine, this time around I feel like I have to suspend my disbelief. Many songs hint about the crazy world K’Naan came from and he makes this subject sound nothing but uplifting. And no one these days in pop music can write songs like these with this credibility. I’m rambling, but the best way to describe it is it feels like even songs that don’t mention the struggles of Africa you still can feel it floating below the service.
My favorite songs on the album seem to be the slower ones. Yeah, it is cool that he has Nas on his album this time around, but I’d rather hear those amazingly simple slow jams over tight drums.
However, I still feel like K’Naan flies way under the radar. You can tell from listening that he has a lot of money behind his production, but I’m still amazed he doesn’t see radio play. If Wyclef released this same album he’d be back on top. But K’Naan, people sleep.
Maybe the genre bending is just too much for popular sentiment. No one knows where to play him. He’s barely hip-hop and way too casual compared to the kick-bass heavy pop that dominates the airwaves.
Finally, he has a song called 70 Excuses that has to be discovered. This is one of those ballads that feels like you’ve already heard it and is an instant classic. Alright, so maybe it is a romanticized version of Afroman’s Because I Got High. But man does K’Naan kill it on this track.