HARD-KNOCK LIFE

K’Naan teaches you the ABC’s

Rapper K’Naan had one of the highest ranking hip-hop records in this year’s Village Voice Pazz & Jop Critics’ Poll. And some thanks is certainly due to having the type of story arc that rock critics adore: being a hip-hop fan raised in Mogadishu during the Somalian Civil War; learning English through Nas records; having a musical palette that makes room for the political and the personal; boasting a love of spoken-word, dancehall, rock, and Afropop; and being the first rapper to play Austin City Limits. This may sound a little bit NPR (believe us, they’re all over this guy), but his brilliant Troubadour isn’t nearly as scarily granola as all that suggests. The beat to “T.I.A.” is as head-knock brilliant as anything M.I.A. ever released, “ABC’s” paints as vivid a picture as any gangsta rap record (and features a Chubb Rock cameo); “Dreamer” stars Talib-style tongue twisters; and “America” flips Ethio-jazz legend Mulatu Astatke in tasteful, gorgeous ways. Opener Wale has been next-big-thing for a while now. Though he hasn’t exactly taken off, his rapid-fire flow always suggests that it’s indeed imminent.
Wed., March 31, 8 p.m., 2010
 
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