Photographer: Nabil .
"See, my blood's on fire, I can't help but survive" declares K'NAAN on "The Seed," the kinetic opener to this Canadian singer's 2012 effort, Country, God or the Girl, another grand step down the Wyclef and U2 road where you'll find sincerity, grandness, poignancy, political anthems, and big productions, as in could-fill-a-canyon big. For this modern Marley-like man who crossed over with the global hit "Wavin' Flag," this is nothing new, but that all-encompassing title references how the personal and intimate have returned to his music here, as light melodies and reflections of growing old fill the precious and proud "Gold in Timbuktu," while "Bulletproof Pride," with special guest Bono, is universal truths and touching whimsy on a "You Can Call Me Al" level, kicking off with "I could have been a doctor, were it not for a degree" and building into a horn-filled jubilee that shakes with mirth. Rappin' what's happenin' as "Waiting Is a Drug" bounces like A Tribe Called Quest, K'NAAN peppers his harrowing story of growing up a Somalian Civil War refugee ("life is a cage" when your surrounded by "cold blades") with crisp, cool punch lines ("Shout out to anyone named 'Mohammed'/'Cause, no lie, I know about a hundred"). If "Is Anybody Out There?" feels just like B.o.B's "Airplanes" with a different rapper (K'NAAN) and a different grand hook deliverer (Nelly Furtado), it's still genuine and moving enough to overcome that déjà vu. Actually, the weird and wonderful whirlwind of funk, hip-hop, rock, and Nas called "Nothing to Lose" is the only thing that feels entirely new because Sting, will.i.am, Damian Marley, and others have done this multiculti, well-funded extravaganza thing before. Still, K'NAAN's a rock-solid songwriter with a charismatic delivery that rains down sparks of cool guy and clever, so call this familiar but rewarding one "Gracedland" or just "Highly Recommended." ~ David Jeffries