So I’ve been listening to K’naan’s Troubadour. “America,” feat. Mos Def and Chali 2NA has been on non-stop rotation over the past week and is one of my favorite tracks so far this year. Mos Def takes the award for best verse after all the dust has cleared when he rhymes, “make that cake / hook that trick / lick my swagger / and suck my shit.” I haven’t really been down with Jurassic 5 over the past couple years, but Chali 2NA shows he’s still the lyrical Frankenstein that I grew to love so much, and his voice is a breath of fresh air in comparison to the other MC’s on the track.
Give respect where it’s due. In the end Troubadour belongs to K’naan. His bio begins in Somalia, moves to Canada, then America. Some times he rhymes in Somali and I have no idea what he is saying, but has a delivery that sounds a bit more familiar than a lot of foreign Hip-Hop artists. On “I Come Prepared,” feat. Damien Marley, he rhymes, “And Africans love them / Some B.I.G. / But 2Pac is official / Ed N.I.C.” Whether you agree with the assertion or not, he isn’t naive to the achievements and conflicts that preceded him.
As Hip-Hop grows more and more global I think new voices, in particular new languages, will provide vast roads of unexplored territory. K’naan’s Somali accent adds a subtle inflection to his delivery, and I find myself singing along to the words that I don’t understand. On “People Like Me” he rhymes “And we both liked American rap rhymes / Even though we didn’t understand one line.” I know how he feels.
On the downside, I’m not really about Troubadour’s dance hall feel, adding another unfamiliar theme for my American sensibilities. I am impressed, but also totally confused with headliners like Adam Levine of Maroon 5 and Kirk Hammett of Metallica stop by for cameo roles. This is Hip-Hop 2009, you reap what you sow, and we all have to eat. Check out Troubadour if this sounds like your taste.