K'naan Country, God or the Girl

K'naanCountry, God or the Girl
If you're an artist in K'Naan's position ― he of world conquering success by way of "Wavin' Flag" ― where do you go? A grassroots, hip-hop-flavoured base that's been with him since 2005's The Dusty Foot Philosopher has evolved into a World Cup/Coca-Cola-friendly cross-cultural multitude. There are a couple trains of thought at play here for the Toronto, ON-based Somali-Canadian: continue as if "Wavin' Flag" wasn't a career game changer and push the artistic envelope or stay in the crowd-pleasing and extremely lucrative world music cosmos he currently finds himself in. The ever self-aware K'Naan understands this, hence the album title, Country, God or the Girl, where he somewhat manages to serve both audience segments on 12 tracks. Those dreading ceaseless "Wavin' Flag" permutations will be pleased with tracks like "70 Excuses," "On The Other Side" and "Better." But this is definitely a populist-minded project, so guest stars abound ― Nas, will.i.am, Nell Furtado and Bono make the cut ― and radio-friendly anthems like "Hurt Me Tomorrow" and "The Wall" keep up mainstream appearances. This is a good, not great album. There are a few shining spots, some merely okay ones and an overall sense that K'Naan is savvy enough to play things on the safer side for now. (Universal)