Despite Troubadour (A&M) debuting at number 32 on the Billboard 200 in February, K'Naan's major-label moment has yet to live up to the potential appeal of his music—which mixes rap, pop, and Caribbean flavor like nobody since the Fugees. It might be a case of poor choices (of singles, for starters), but also of too much of a good thing, story-wise: K'Naan would be as gifted and charismatic had he been born in Toronto (where he's based) or here in the Twin Cities (where he's lived) rather than in Somalia, which he escaped just in time in the early '90s. As it is, fleeing hell has given him an ironic edge unique in pop. "We from the only place worse than Kandahar/Yeah, that's kinda hard," he raps on "Dreamer," betraying no hint in his flat accent that he learned English from Nas and Rakim albums. He has been a voice of perspective on the Somali pirate situation, and currently wins over Jason Mraz fans and Rock the Bells festival-goers day by day, so savor this medium-venue stopover in one of his adopted places of refuge. Openers include Kay, Muja Messiah, and M.anifest. 18+.
Wed., July 8, 8 p.m., 2009