Saturday, February 28, 2009

Album Review: K'naan - Troubadour (4.5/5)

Hip-hop in the 21st century has definitely taken a twist in comparison to the 90s and 80s, while the top artist of this decade indulge in synthesized, pop bassline backed cuts, K'naan doesn't jump on the contemporary bandwagon. Troubadour is a definitely the best hip-hop album I've heard in a while. The latest releases Kanye Wests 808s & Heartbreak, Commons Universal Mind Control and Plies' Da REAList have all been decent efforts, but nothing praise worthy.

Troubadour is a remarkable collection of 90s old school joints all spun with a modern twist. I'd never heard of K'naan, but I did hear good stories about his previous album, 2007s The Dusty Foot on the Road and 2005s The Dusty Foot Philosopher which I have yet to listen to in full, but what I can tell from the 30 second previews in iTunes, they're pretty good. "T.I.A." is a brillaint opener, em-basking in a series of rhythmic handclaps, beeps and excessive chanting of the title. The song also incorporates song M.I.A. like indian vibes.

The follow up track "ABCs" is another key track, as well sounding... not so contemporary but very single worthy. The song talks about Africa, describing it as a land of different priorities, I love the lyric: "nobody fat enough for lipo". The chorus is fairly catchy too. "Dreamer" sounds very 90s ish, with its retro funky bassline, it lacks a chorus that sticks, but it does get the job done. In comparison to The Dusty Foot Philosopher which was admittedly more contemporary and modern ("Soobax" and "Strugglin") are good examples and are what are missing from this album. The lack of contemporary cuts deny this album of the rich feel of Philosopher. "Bang Bang" is one of my favorites, incorporating a very melodic chorus sung in an higher register vocal, the round-off the chorus: "bang bang, she shot me..." very catchy. "If Rap Gets Jealous" is again one of my favorites, it takes off in a more alternative rock direction, incorporating the typical ingredients for an alternative songs, electronic guitars, drums and a very breezy chorus --the production on the song is brilliant.

The more mellow "Somalia" as well as having a great melody and beat but its very lyrically charged too. "Take A Minute" and "People Like Me" go in the same direction. The only downfall of the album is the closing track "Doesn't Really Matter" which sounds like it belongs on a Nelly album. Troubadour is certainly the best piece of hip-hop I've heard in a long time, I decided to get this to fill in the time leading to the biggest release I'm looking forward to, Jay-Zs The Blueprint 3 but luckily it didn't turn out a time filler, but a very good offering. Unfortunately the lack of contemporary cuts does bug me.

Best Tracks: M.I.A. ABCs, Dreamer, Bang Bang, Wavin' Flagn, Somalia, America, Take A Minute, People Like Me, 15 Minutes Away


Mel said...

J -- I can't believe I missed that you posted this!! I actually intern at K'NAAN's label! :) Glad you like the album! I dig it, too!

J.Mensah said...

:) OMG! really? OctoScope music? that's sooo cool! :) the albums very good, I dig it too, yo! :)