I saw a video a few months ago with Erykah Badu mentioning that “Michael Jackson is a part of our DNA”. I found her statement to be true, whether you look at the structure and culture of pop and R&B music, metaphorically speaking, or at our individual physical/genealogical makeup.

After reading the Going For Self article by Rico Washington in the newest Wax Poetics N° 37 MJ issue, Erykah’s words rang true once again after I found myself getting chills at the thoughts of how these artists came together and wrote these beautiful songs for Michael. Stories by producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff (Philedelphia International Records), songwriters James Ingram (P.Y.T. – Pretty Young Thing), Siedah Garrett (Man In The Mirror), Susaye Greene (I Can’t Help It), Leon Ware (I Wanna Be Where You Are), and Marsha Ambrosius (Butterflies), tell of the passion, love, professionalism, and humbleness that these writers and Michael possessed during the creation, development, and recording of these classic tunes.
This piece also sheds light on the importance of songwriters, how they can help shape the life and career of an artist, and then touch the world, as did Michael Jackson with his collaborators.

Needless to say, the entire issue is a gem for collectors (I heard they are moving fast), but is also a treasure for fans who have a part of Michael inside of them, as most of us do.

Available at WaxPoetics.com, Charlemagne Records (Birmingham, Alabama) and at fine record and book stores near you.

I first got put on to K’naan through Myspace a couple of years ago and later through DJ Edu’s show on BBC 1XTRA. Born in Mogadishu, Somalia and currently residing in Toronto, K’naan drops his second full length effort Troubador, following his well accepted international debut Dusty Foot Philosopher. During his first release, he would soon go on tour with the Marley brothers Stephen and Damian, and would later spend four months at the late Bob Marley’s house and recording studios to put together this release, with Stephen as a “spiritual producer” of the album. Guests include Mos Def, Chubb Rock, Chali 2na (Jurassic 5), Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, Damian Marley and an L.A. children’s choir.

I first have to speak for a minute on the country of Somalia..After doing some research, it seems that K’naan has alot to speak on in regards to his homeland. I’m talking about REAL pirates in the oceans. Story says (if you may not have heard) that European firms began dumping toxic waste around the shores of Somalia, so they took matters into their own hands by hijacking anyone who comes near their waters, while holding them for a huge ransom.Couple that with a collapsed government and youth running around with guns and you have a few of the realities of Somalia.

Ok, back to the music..This album definitely has the proverbial “something for everyone” in terms of styles that weave in and out of hip hop, rock, pop, traditional Ethio/Somali music, and folk, but what I like most about this album is that K’naan manages to reflect, be totally honest, and straightforward about life, love, and struggle (in a believable way) while still having fun, attributes all needed in today’s music. Much props to the brother for pulling off a multi-genre album that doesn’t come off as overproduced, watered down or just plain corny. Pick this one up through the links on his myspace page, and check out the videos and singles as well.

Junior Star gives Troubador a 6.5 out of 7 head nods.

Top Tracks:
T.I.A. – Straight up party starter, call and response, great opening track.

ABCs (feat. Chubb Rock) – K’naan+Treat Em Right sample+ Chubb Rock=Classic.

Bang Bang (feat. Adam Levine) – Reminds me of when I used to rock out to Duran Duran back in the day, pre-hip hop era..

America (feat. Mos Def and Chali 2na) – Favorite Track. My wife: “How is it that Mos Def is always on the freshest beats?”

15 Minutes Away – Funny track about receiveing and sending money via Western Union..brings back old college memories..

Fire In Freetown – 2nd favorite Track. Dope song all singing and no raps.

I have to give a SUPER shout out to my son who requests (and absolutely wilds out to) this album and videos everyday.