On “Better” from K’Naan‘s new EP, the Somali-born rapper sings “Waitin’ for a Wavin’ Flag in the FIFA /I was a dreamer…” He’s referring to the resounding success of “Wavin’ Flag”, the cut from his 2009 record, Troubadour, that became an anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Yet, K’Naan admits as many failures as successes in ”Better”, leaving no question that, despite his recent international success, he will not be resting on any laurels.
While much of the music on More Beautiful Than Silence contains some of the exuberant and spirited positivity of “Wavin’ Flag”, there’s plenty of lyrical darkness in the reminders of Somali atrocities and pain. K’Naan has always used his music to spread awareness of, and probably come to terms with, the horrific violence of his youth in Mogadishu. The title track spells it out: “Body chalk?… Well I’m used to bodies chopped/I seen shit to give new meaning to the body shop.” As if moving beyond his own history, many of these lyrics concern the complexities of living in North America after enduring such a trauma.
Musically, the songs all have an international flavor, but the EP doesn’t match the brilliance of Troubadour tracks like “T.I.A.”, “Bang Bang”, or “Fire in Freetown”. Most of the choruses have an uplifting, world pop flavor, which occasionally feels cheesy. However, K’Naan more than makes up for it with intelligent and innovative verses, not to mention excellent guest spots from the equally reedy-voiced Nelly Furtado and K’Naan’s rap hero, Nas.
The most creative music comes on the title track, with a delicate ascending melody on the chorus that mirrors the song’s main piano riff. The surprising outro, a gospel choir breakdown with lush piano arpeggios and a potboiler violin melody, might have been sentimental and saccharine in someone else’s hands. For K’Naan, it works.
Essential Tracks: “More Beautiful Than Silence”, “Nothing to Lose”, and ”Coming to America”