#24 K'Naan "Troubadour"
Standout Single: "Somalia"
For Fans Of: Eminem, Mos Def (whose "The Ecstatic" just missed the cut)
The best hip-hop album you probably haven't heard yet. You may want to get used to hearing his name though, as he has written the theme song for the upcoming World Cup in South Africa, a track called "Waving Flag." K'Naan is a Somalian born rapper who immigrated to Canada, which has got to be some kind of first, who writes autobiographical confessionals about growing up on the rough streets of his homeland, streets he tells us that have no names. Although at times he gets a little sidetracked comparing the ghetto he grew up in (it was tougher) to that of 50 Cent's, for the most part this is an album that lives up to the hype.
There are also some questionable collaborations here (Kirk Hammett of Metallica and Adam Levine of Maroon 5), but who in hip-hop these days isn't participating in at least a few of these. Watch for the Hammett track, "If Rap Gets Jealous" on the Madden soundtrack. For the most part, tracks like "Somalia" and "Fatima" make for an excellent album, one that defy stereotypes in the genre and come from a sincere MC who is capable of producing the type of music I didn't even think was possible in rap music today. You also have to respect someone who gives a shoutout to Fela Kuti on the opening track, does a collaboration with Mos Def in his native tongue, and who records his album at Tuff Gong Studios in Jamaica (Bob Marley) and includes a track with his son Damien ("I Come Prepared"). Check out the politically correct live performance of "Waving Flag" below: