2009 release. Recorded primarily in Kingston, Jamaica where K'Naan was granted unprecedented access by his friends Stephen and Damian Marley to their father Bob Marley's original home studio at 56 Hope Road and the legenda... more »ry Tuff Gong studios Troubadour is a Hip Hop album like no other. K'Naan successfully blends samples and live instrumentation for a sound that's both rooted in traditional African melodies and the classic Hip Hop tradition. Features Kirk Hammett of Metallica on the song 'If Rap Gets Jealous'.« less
2009 release. Recorded primarily in Kingston, Jamaica where K'Naan was granted unprecedented access by his friends Stephen and Damian Marley to their father Bob Marley's original home studio at 56 Hope Road and the legendary Tuff Gong studios Troubadour is a Hip Hop album like no other. K'Naan successfully blends samples and live instrumentation for a sound that's both rooted in traditional African melodies and the classic Hip Hop tradition. Features Kirk Hammett of Metallica on the song 'If Rap Gets Jealous'.
"I try to be hip, but it's a little hard for an "old white lady" to be truly hip. I got Troubadour, I confess, because this hippie chick always liked reggae and I wanted to see how the musical elements were blended. My experience with Hip Hop is largely what I've heard blaring too loudly out of cars I'm stuck beside in traffic--that and the Sarah Palin SNL "mother-lovin' moose" skit--but those eyes rolling at me when I hurriedly roll up my window plus the knowledge that Hip Hop is sweeping the world in popularity made me want to educate myself so I'd be a little less square. (Well, that's the word we used to use for it. I have no idea what the same thing is in the current hip vernacular!)
I have to say that I liked this CD more than I thought I would. First off, I was pleasantly surprised at how well K'naan enunciates his words. One of things I've disliked so much about rap lyrics is that I often cannot make out much more than the four-letter words; then what comes across is a bunch of anger and ugliness without much in the way of content to enlighten me and draw me in. This compilation is different. I can understand what's being said, and what's being said is often meaningful--and more broadly so--than most of the rap I've been exposed to has seemed to me. K'naan is just as adept as some infamous rappers at using those four-letter words, but they are used to good effect--not solely for their shock value or as a coded badge of entry for members of a narrowly circumscribed, exclusive little club.
The way K'naan and his collaborators juxtapose rap rhythms with more traditional musical elements is appealing. When there is a spoken rap line, the elements backing it up are more melodic; when the vocals are sung (as on my favorite tracks), the beat is more rap-like. As for the non-rap elements, these I found most engaging. The African flavors are especially appealing, making me want to hear more. (That Paul Simon was so strongly criticized for trying to introduce African music to white Americans was an unfortunate musical setback at a time when a whole generation of Pop/Rock lovers was ready to open up to something new.)
I personally enjoy the subtleties of Troubadour more than the up-front "energetic" aspects of it, although I suspect most Hip Hop fans might feel quite the opposite. I quickly tire of rap--I know a lot of my unhip friends do as well--but when used judiciously as an accent embedded in a larger mosaic of fresh sound, I find it enlivening.
As it stands, Troubadour is not a CD I'd listen to in its entirety on a regular basis, but there are several tracks--the ones that made me get up and shake my booty in spite of myself--that I will definitely incorporate into my playlists. If K'naan can continue to evolve beyond "just rap" without betraying his roots, my sense is that he will be able to attract an audience far larger than the Hip Hop crowd.
Made my ears very happy!
Krystal Bracht | Tennessee | 02/27/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first song I heard (Bang Bang fet. Adam Levine) blew me away. It made me want to hear more...I listened to the record on Amazon's listening party and it was easily the freshest music I've heard so far this year (along with Lily Allen's It's Not Me It's You) especially in hip-hop. There's really not a bad or filler track on here, but my favorite songs are Bang Bang/If Rap Gets Jealous/Wavin' Flag/Take a Minute/ People Like Me. I think he sounds like Wyclef meets Eminem...in the best possible way. Very positive approach towards a life that throws too many curveballs. I would recommend this to anyone who likes popular music!"
Hip-Hop Variety With A Compelling Message
Philip R. Heath | DFW | 04/24/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Troubadour is the sophomore offering from Somali rapper K'Naan. I have to admit that this is a bit outside of my normal listening genres. However, I liked what I heard on the samples, and I am also a big Kirk Hammett fan (see my review of Death Magnetic). So I decided to branch out and give this a shot. As such I offer an "outsider's" perspective on this CD.
I must say that I'm glad that I took a shot on Troubadour. While I don't have a lot of experience to draw from, I get the distinct impression that there is something different about this CD. K'Naan's songs speak about real problems beyond the U.S. borders. While many of the subjects are about the grim and grizzly reality of growing up in war torn Somalia, K'Naan always comes back the fact that he is a survivor. Even though his life began in dire straits, he has overcome these extreme obstacles to be successful. I believe that his background keeps him from wandering down thepaths of excess and gratuitous sex and violence that is so prevalent in rap and hip-hop. Songs such as " ABCs" give light to the life children in Somalia face "They don't teach us the ABCs. All we have is life on the streets." As compelling as this subject is, many people will need something more that they can relate to. K'Naan takes care of this. The closer, "People Like Me", unites K'Naan's trials to those of a soldier in Iraq and a struggling single mother. The chorus says it all "Heaven, is there a chance that you could come down and open doors to hurting people like me." K'Naan also has a couple of songs about the ladies, but he avoids the cliches and degradation that is so common. While "Bang Bang" is more lighthearted and playful, "Fatima" is a more solemn song about a love lost.
K'Naan's appeal is that there is nothing contrived about his songs. While Troubadour earns its "Parental Advisory" label, I didn't find it offensive. There is also a fair variety in sound on Troubadour. Some songs are straight up hip-hop such as "T.I.A." and "ABCs". However, "Wavin' Flag" gives a nod to Bob Marley without trying to be a cheap imitation, and "If Rap Gets Jealous" is somewhat of a crossover song with Kirk Hammett lending solid guitar work. I thought he did a good job of playing in a style that fit the song rather than forcing his signature Metallica sound. Troubadour is a CD worth checking out.
Download this: ABCs"
Nse Ette | Lagos, Nigeria | 03/19/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Two months into 2009 and we already have a strong contender for album fo the year in "Troubadour".
K'Naan is a Somali-born rapper who fled (with his family) to the US, then Canada, and his style can be described as Kanye West meets Bob Marley. "Troubadour" is his second studio CD and lives up to its name as he displays poetic skill right up there with the wisest of sages. His wordplay and subject matter leaves most other rappers (and singers too) trailing in the wake. While they brag about their bling, cars, b**ches and stuff, K'naan's lyrics touch on life in Africa, especially his homeland, but with humour and hope.
Opening cut "T.I.A" is a Ragga-tinged clap-filled groove that M.I.A would kill for. Continuing that Reggae vibe is "I come prepared" (featuring Damian Marley). The bouncy "ABCs" touches on the effect war had on education back in his homeland. "Dreamer" finds him telling us that despite all the problems back home, he too (like everyone esle) had dreams, and they came true.
Next come a pair of Rock-tinged numbers; "Bang bang" (with lyrics about a girl this time, not war :-)) features a catchy chorus sung by Adam Levine, and the groovy "If Rap gets jealous" which features Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett (especially on the blistering chorus).
A troupe of African-tinged songs follow; "Wavin' flag" is a very Bob Marley-like chant (right down to the harmonies) with K'naan singing "Born to a throne/stronger than Rome/A violent prone/Poor people zone/but it's my home/all I have known". Very heartfelt and catchy. "Somalia" finds him talking about his homeland, "America" features Mos Def and some Afrobeat samples set to some ethnic-sounding percussion and lyrics in English and his native tongue. "Fatima" is an acoustic tinged groovy ode to his neighbour's daughter.
My absolute favourite song is the majestic guitar driven "Fire in Freetown" which finds him singing rather than rapping, and it has a lovely horn break. Indescribably beautiful! The autobiographical "Take a minute" pays tribute to his mother, as well as name checking other heroes of his like Mandela, Ghandi and even Akon.
The comical "15 minutes" vividly takes a look at the anticipation/excitement a needy one back home feels when he/she receives a money transfer. Closing is the sombre string-swathed "People like me", which finds him in the shoes of someone sent to wage war in Iraq, as well as talking about how he fled Somalia but left his favourite cousin behind in the war.
I am so glad this CD made the top 40 (#32 in the US) as intelligent musical efforts like this usually get passed up for commercial sounding crap. Brilliant! A troubadour indeed."
Connects with the Best; Obliterates the Rest
Aceto | Meilhan Sur Garonne | 04/23/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"K'naan has talent. He is the Mozart of Somalia. His brilliance lies in his ability to work in so many musical idioms. Like Mozart, all he needs do is hear a kind of music and he will make it his. What's more, he is both musical and lyrical.
T.I.A (This Is Africa) displays his humor. His call-and-response goes from a Hip-Hop banality to a booming response in the style of massed African warriors. Perfect. Then the cut goes on to morph what is left of Hip-Hop to traditional folk melody and beat.
The second cut. ABC, switches gears into Arabic conventions. He has an amazing ability to encounter and to integrate.
When you get to Dreamer he shows how he has the American idioms down cold. By this time I noticed how nice is his booklet to show his lyrics to a world audience.
Next is "I am Prepared", where he winks at the tired old state of rap and hip-hop in America. Then his tour-de-force goes to old time group harmony before chiding rap.
"If Rap Gets Jealous" is a threat of heavy rock. You will hear 60's chord progressions. He does a bit of dub and even reaches back to '50s motifs.
The political lyrics are well done. He does point out that, in the case of Iraq, "We've been doing this thing since before Jesus of Nasareth.
He avoids the idiotic sub-woofer bloat because it would kill his tenor and treble work, and would muddy his striking writing.
Now that he has demonstrated his breadth, we look forward to his going deep in his shed."