"Country, God or the Girl"As a lyricist K’naan is as skilled and thoughtful as they come. But for Country, God or the Girl it couldn’t be further from the truth. His goal here is to reach a wider audience. It’s a pop crossover, a formulaic project piece to test his market appeal. And it listens that way. At its best it hints at K’naan’s skill as a writer, but for a majority of the album all you get is pop laziness. Inevitably the lyrics suffer, and what this album signifies is a downward decent, a one-way ticket to the middle. He may as well join the Black Eyed Peas. There are some moments of intrigue on this album. Unfortunately those are few and far between:

Gold in Timbuktu

Gold in TimbuktuThis is the strongest song on the album, which by the end doesn’t mean much. You get a little bit of everything: K’naan’s surprisingly pleasant vocals, cleaver punchlines, and smooth, laid-back cadences. From a lyrical standpoint, K’naan is separating himself from his former squeaky-clean image. He’s more brash and even a bit self-deprecating, which is an interesting turn, but as the album unfolds, it reveals itself to be nothing more than fool’s gold. It’s his way of diluting what is a sound and completely unique perspective in order to appeal to a mass audience: [LISTEN]

But life goes on, how ironic
If I could do it over I’d probably smoke chronic
But still follow the footsteps of prophet Muhammad

Hurt me Tomorrow

Hurt me TomorrowK’naan should be very careful when slinging analogies especially when they are so ill-informed. To compare yourself to “Strange Fruit” without knowing what it means, is both ignorant and careless. He uses it as way of describing his position as an unusual person in an alien environment, and how a girl came and alleviated that pain, not realizing that “strange fruit” actually refers to lynchings. He earns the benefit of the doubt here, perhaps not being informed of American history, but what’s distressing is that no one close to the production of the album bothered to mention the significance: [LISTEN]

I used to be strange fruit
Billie Holiday, got me by my roots
Sent the pain away

Nothing to Lose feat. Nas

Nothing to LoseBy this time it’s clear that K’naan is looking to garner as many fans as possible. He’s spreading himself way too thin, and thinks that by featuring Nas he’ll somehow be in the good graces of hip-hop heads. He’s wrong. K’naan’s flow comes across as forced and manufactured, hearing him swear is like hearing your grandfather swear for the first time. Incredibly awkward and a little bit disappointing. Nas drops a great verse, and it’s hard at this point not to turn off Country, God or the Girlin favor of Illmatic: [LISTEN]

It was Written just came out
I was gnarly then
Niggas dreaded seeing me like a Rastafarian

 ‘Simple

Simple“Simple” starts off with a sparse melody, which allows K’naan’s voice to shine. He’s got an interesting one so to hear him harmonize is a welcome departure from the norm. His flow bounces confidently in a flirtatious manner, but then goes nowhere. I fizzles out, and all you’re left with is flat air. The content of the lyrics do little to elevate things, and by the end you’re wanting more. And not in a good way: [LISTEN]

Cause I’m not paying, no attention
She take me, to a dimension
Where the mind is, on suspension

 

Bulletproof Pride feat. Bono

Bulletproof PrideHaving Bono make a guest appearance on a song says a lot. It says that you’ve made it into an elite club, and that millions will likely hear your music. It also says that you’re confident enough to share the stage with an icon. But it doesn’t necessarily mean the final product will be any good. Here K’naan does his best to nail down the “anthem” of the album. The arrangements are pleasant, and bold enough to stimulate some intrigue. But in the context of the project it just doesn’t make sense. It’s easily forgettable, which in an ironic way makes it an appropriate anthem for the album: [LISTEN]

You got your gun, your bulletproof pride
You never run
But you sure know how to hide