CD Review: K’Naan, Troubadour

Carrie Ingraham

The Somalia-born rapper, K’Naan, is doing things no one has done before – and this goes far beyond combining genres to create his own. The fire ignited by “Troubadour” is no doubt sparked by the artist’s past, which includes fleeing his hometown district at the height of the Somalian Civil War in the early ’90s. Grounded by his family of poets, singers and writers, the artist found himself calling Somalia, America and Canada his homes. This earned him the name K’Naan, which means “traveler.”
“Troubadour” starts off with lively tracks laced with rock, reggae and even swing-infused beats, but the true power of the album comes about halfway through. The later tracks’ lyrics and stories are most haunting on “Fatima,” a story of childhood love brought to a violent end by a corrupt government. “America,” featuring Mos Def, and “Somalia” contrast the cultures and how each contributed to the artist’s upbringing. Album hit, “Wavin’ Flag,” is a catchy, yet heartfelt display of affection for K’Naan’s African roots.
In no way is “Troubadour” a gloomy delving into past suffering. What makes this album unique is the power K’Naan has to turn pain into opportunity through focusing on pride and optimism, as on the booming opener, “T.I.A.” This growth-over-destruction mindset is best described on the self-examining “Take a Minute,” in which the rapper declares, “I take inspiration from the most heinous of situations/creating medication out my own tribulations/Dear Africa, you helped me write this.”
Aside from K’Naan’s unparalleled story-telling talents, album guests ranging from Damian Marley, Maroon 5’s Adam Levine and even Kirk Hammett of Metallica also help bring “Troubadour” to new musical levels. The album displays how K’Naan is traveling above and beyond traditional borders of musical genres. Through inciting a range of emotions and experimentation, “Troubadour” sets new standards for not only hip- hop, but for modern music in its entirety.