This Somali-Canadian rapper starts off his sophomore release sounding like he thinks he's got something to prove, but by the end we're the ones being schooled. He still stumbles with the occasional wack rhyme and bizarre collaboration (Maroon 5's Adam Levine?), but when K'naan is on, he ranks as a political poet of the first order. And his musical skills extend far beyond hip-hop: He flows over Ethiopian jazz, sings in Somali (while Mos Def raps, no less), even duets with Kirk Hammett's guitar. The panoramic political perspective and bursts of genuine wisdom give these delightful songs teeth.
"How did I end up here with you?" asks Drake on "Show Me a Good Time." Thank Me Later answers the question, weaving between a melodic croon delivered over muted and balladic sounds and lyrical allusions to nascent superstardom. "I avoided the Coke game and went with Sprite instead," he raps on "The Resistance," acknowledging his marketability and clean-cut image. Predictably, famous well wishers like Jay-Z and Alicia Keys appear. But this is Drake's hour, and his introspective musings, deployed on standouts like "Fireworks," make this an engaging and occasionally spectacular debut.
Despite the anti-capitalist title, Not 4 Sale, with its high-end production and T-Pain guest spots, is the most commercially viable release from this Toronto rapper. But don't call it a sellout: Kardi retains much of the gruff, ragga-tinged flavor that's made him a favorite among hardcore rap fans. Songs like "Set It Off," featuring Clipse, and "Burnt," are a perfect mix of club-rap beats and Kingston-style spitting. It's an album full of surprises, like "Numba 1," which transcends its Rihanna hook with a thrilling, Caribbean drumline beat and some dirty toasting over top.
They've gone from "bright neon" to "ghost colours"; now Cut Copy expand their palette further with third album Zonoscope. At an hour long, including 15-minute closer "Sun God," it's quite the ambitious work. Opener "Need You Now" sounds like U2 if Bono and The Edge were more into dance clubs than stadiums; "Take Me Over" has the breeziness -- plus the tom-toms -- of that fellow Aussie hit "Down Under"; and "Where I'm Going" is positively Beach Boys. From there, songs flow into one another, sheets of sparkling synths wiggle and wobble and disco beats thump and bump (think The Rapture).