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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
K'Naan
The Dusty Foot Philosopher
BMG

Rating: 8.5/10 ?


October 28, 2008
Somalian-Canadian rapper K'Naan's story reads so well as press copy that it's impossible to believe it hasn't yet exploited him to the top. He learned to rap phonetically, to records, before he mastered the English language, performed for the United Nations, and drove a cab. He writes songs about war and third world desperation. His nearest cadence is Eminem, another rags-to-riches pipsqueak with a reservoir of skills and a high crack in his voice. He beefed with k-os, proving once and for all that Canadian rappers can hold just as immature dick-size contests as American ones. And his hooks are as sticky and organic as Wyclef in his golden age. As he exclaims in the boastful "If Rap Gets Jealous," he gets bored with the straight-up: "So how can rap quench my thirst? I don't even have verses no more!" That one's got some kinda hair metal guitars, and like most of what's here, they're hooky. So why isn't he famous?

"You mean to tell me that you're still out there toting guns?" he asks in "Blues For the Horn." In short: violence ain't k'ool. Look, for my money Eminem is the greatest musical talent of the post-Cobain era but let's not pretend his variations on sex, drugs and rock audiences aren't selling sex and drugs to rock audiences. The people don't distinguish subversive from the actual very often; Disaster Movie won (and deserved) the same crowds of the films it spoofed. K'Naan does not rap about, subversively or otherwise, sex, drugs and rock audiences. He's a news reporter like Nas, never a big seller, about countries that earn even less publicity than he does. And despite his auto-rep as a "philosopher" of some kind, he defuses any mystery of his own by countering all horrors with relief and yang for yin. For every battle cry like debut single "Soobax" or the stark "What's Hardcore," there's an antidote like "Smile," a verb the man born Kaynaan Warsame surrounds with buzzing synth-and-pipe-organ pop-and unhip hope, in a time when apathy is a glib way to look cool.

K'Naan splashes big colors and settings on his singsongy canvasses: streams of splashing, mucking water on "Wash It Down," campfire acoustic guitars on "I Was Stabbed by Satan." The title tune throws an insidious Fiddler on the Roof klezmer into the mix, complete with old Jewish guy grumbling in la la la to take the song out. These are the choruses. The verses are replete with horrors from Hell's Kitchen to Africa ("Got no police, ambulance or firefighters/ We start riots by burning car tires") and brag out facing down just about any kind of adversity you can nightmare up. He probably has, and lived to tell. Don't you want to hear what's hardcore? Unless you're apathetic, too.

Reviewed by Dan Weiss
Dan Weiss is the music editor for LAS. Formerly an editorial intern at CMJ and creator of the now defunct What was It Anyway?, his work has appeared in Village Voice, Pitchfork, Philadelphia Inquirer, Stylus and Crawdaddy among others. He resides in Brooklyn where he enjoys questionable lifestyle choices and loud guitars.

See other reviews by Dan Weiss

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