K’naan croons on his new album, “God never give burdens you can’t handle. Music is my ammo.”
In Country, God or the Girl, his first full album since 2009’sTroubadour, he explores life in a raw way. K’naan’s Somali-Canadian heritage allows him to consider his life experiences with violence, death and heartache on a grand, almost universal, scale. Though his music inspires persistence, his overt reflection on life’s difficulties is a far cry from the jauntiness of 2010’s “Wavin’ Flag.”
When K’naan moved from Somalia to New York City and then to Canada at age 13, he learned and practiced his English by listening to hip-hop. When we consider that he learned to communicate within the constraints of hip-hop diction, it’s no wonder that his songs have such a depth of self-expression.
Country, God or the Girl features a wide variety of songs, ranging from hit single “Is Anybody Out There?,” which features Nelly Furtado, to the mellow and introspective “The Seed.” Each song is stylistically different, influenced by jazz and exploring instrumental sounds from piano to steel drums.
One of the most well-known songs on K’naan’s newest album is “Hurt Me Tomorrow,” a song about someone desperately clinging to a dying relationship. Unlike Taylor Swift or Adele, K’naan manages to present his tale of heartbreak without coming across as whiny or melancholy.
“Better,” a fitting title for one of the best songs on the album, explores K’naan’s journey and his confidence that “I’m only getting better, better, better.” The weak point in the album was “Nothing to Lose,” featuring Nas. It begins with people discussing the difficulties of life in the neighborhood in which K’naan grew up. The speaking had little rhythm and no background music, making it more of adialogue than a rap intro.
Besides the music in his songs, K’naan’s lyrics are also an important aspect of his album that may otherwise be overlooked. His easily missed pop culture references, such as “Love you ’til you’re old like Betty White,” make his songs even more relatable and fun.
Despite a few grievances, Country, God or the Girl is worth a listen, whether you are contemplating the meaning of life or reflecting on how you much hate the hill between Leo’s and Lau.