Rapper KNaan had one of the highest ranking hip-hop records in this years 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, theyre all over this guy), but his brilliant Troubadour isnt 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, ABCs 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 hasnt exactly taken off, his rapid-fire flow always suggests that its indeed imminent.
Wed., March 31, 8 p.m., 2010