K''nann, Troubadour (A&M/Octone)

K'naan is one of those dudes who can turn lemons into lemonade. When we have lemons, we usually squirt ourselves in the eye and start screaming.
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Strife and triumph
Much like fellow Torontoan k-os, Somali refugee K''naan doesn''t usually create hip-hop within a traditional framework. Just as the MC/vocalist/producer did with his debut, Dusty Foot Philosopher, K''naan uses his new LP to showcase a magnetic mix of pop, tribal and hip-hop sounds.

His melting-pot style is no doubt worthy of mass appeal, though that doesn''t mean the nasally voiced act is immune to tripping up. Case in point is the herky-jerky love song “Bang Bang,” which features an overly frantic beat and misplaced cameo by Adam Levine of Maroon 5. Minus made-for-radio singles of the sort, Troubadour features many tracks that demonstrate K''naan''s storytelling sensibilities and his penchant for producing feel-good beats. On the funk-filled song “Dreamer,” K''naan proclaims, “We not down and out just because the times are hard.” And throughout this LP, he proves that he''s able to write about reality without getting weighed down by dreariness. Listening especially to the standout, dancehall-inspired “T.I.A.,” it''s not hard to tell that K''naan has found his own lane in hip-hop. While he does sometimes try too hard to make hits, this multitalent has a solid album on his hands. [3.5 out of 5 stars]