K’naan, ‘The Dusty Foot Philosopher’ (Interdependent Media)
“If I rhymed about home and got descriptive / I’d make 50 Cent look like Limp Bizkit,” claims this Somali expat on “What’s Hardcore,” a bleak but bouncy throwdown from his debut album. The dude isn’t kidding: K’naan grew up in the war-ravaged streets of Mogadishu, before emigrating to Toronto as a teenager. This would be only an interesting side note if K’naan weren’t a deft, imaginative lyricist who buoyed his desperate tales with warm, hooky melodies, African percussion, clever pop-culture references, and a surprising dose of humor. Fortunately, he is.