Release Date: Oct 16, 2012
Record label: A&M
Genre(s): Rap, Pop/Rock
The titular girl gets her moment on the latest album by K'Naan in the punchy pop-rap single "Hurt Me Tomorrow." But country and God interest the Somali-Canadian rapper-singer more. Bono appears on "Bulletproof Pride." But K'Naan is more like hip-hop's Chris Martin: a well-meaning guy who's as pop-savvy as he is pompous, and duller than he is pop-savvy. Listen to 'Country, God or the Girl' .
Pop-rappers are always the villains. Flo Rida, Black Eyed Peas, “Starships,” supposedly overly earnest, banal, mindless—this is the stuff Real Rap fights against with classic tropes like crack cooking and offhand misogyny (I’m being an asshole, but rap fans have an enormous double standard when they apply nonmusical virtues to their idea of “quality” rap). K’NAAN entered the crosshairs with 2009’s “Wavin’ Flag,” an international World Cup theme with, boo hoo, a “Coca-Cola remix.” His ratio of singing to rapping increases with every record.
"See, my blood's on fire, I can't help but survive" declares K'NAAN on "The Seed," the kinetic opener to this Canadian singer's 2012 effort, Country, God or the Girl, another grand step down the Wyclef and U2 road where you'll find sincerity, grandness, poignancy, political anthems, and big productions, as in could-fill-a-canyon big. For this modern Marley-like man who crossed over with the global hit "Wavin' Flag," this is nothing new, but that all-encompassing title references how the personal and intimate have returned to his music here, as light melodies and reflections of growing old fill the precious and proud "Gold in Timbuktu," while "Bulletproof Pride," with special guest Bono, is universal truths and touching whimsy on a "You Can Call Me Al" level, kicking off with "I could have been a doctor, were it not for a degree" and building into a horn-filled jubilee that shakes with mirth. Rappin' what's happenin' as "Waiting Is a Drug" bounces like A Tribe Called Quest, K'NAAN peppers his harrowing story of growing up a Somalian Civil War refugee ("life is a cage" when your surrounded by "cold blades") with crisp, cool punch lines ("Shout out to anyone named 'Mohammed'/'Cause, no lie, I know about a hundred").
If you're an artist in K'Naan's position ? he of world conquering success by way of "Wavin' Flag" ? where do you go? A grassroots, hip-hop-flavoured base that's been with him since 2005's The Dusty Foot Philosopher has evolved into a World Cup/Coca-Cola-friendly cross-cultural multitude. There are a couple trains of thought at play here for the Toronto, ON-based Somali-Canadian: continue as if "Wavin' Flag" wasn't a career game changer and push the artistic envelope or stay in the crowd-pleasing and extremely lucrative world music cosmos he currently finds himself in. The ever self-aware K'Naan understands this, hence the album title, Country, God or the Girl, where he somewhat manages to serve both audience segments on 12 tracks.
The third full-length album from Somali-born, Toronto-based globalized hip-hopper K’naan operates under the looming shadow of his massive worldwide hit single, “Wavin’ Flag”. Practically ubiquitous in Canada and much of Europe for a good year or so following its use as Coca-Cola’s promotional theme for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, “Wavin’ Flag” had a lower profile in the U.S. much in the way that the event it was used to promote generally does.