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Rap doesn’t usually lend itself to modesty. Particularly when the genre’s narratives involve struggle, hardship or killing. YetK’naan broached those themes and more Sunday at a sold-out Metro in Chicago while displaying a humble attitude that matched his tender, boyish singing. The slender Somali-born MC — whose adopted name means “traveler” in his native language — even surrendered his headlining slot to Washington, D.C., rapper Wale. He wasn’t bothered in the least.

K’naan’s gracious temperament and mature disposition are largely owed to surviving real-life dangers that most of his contemporaries can’t comprehend. Growing up amid the start of Somalia’s civil war, he witnessed widespread violence before fleeing to New York on the last commercial flight out of his country. The vocalist’s biographical accounts informed “Wavin’ Flag,” an anthem laced with spoken-word verses and reggae accents. Like the majority of the hourlong set, the song inspired and celebrated, its enthusiasm further amplified by K’naan’s bounding movements. His deft melodies and fluid deliveries were just as impressive.

K’naan reached back to rap’s communal roots and looked ahead to invigorating sonic possibilities. Songs such as “Dreamer” and “ABCs” ignored the lines between hip-hop, funk, pop and rock. A backing quartet gave the music ample punch, with intermittent trumpet blasts and vocal harmonies contributing to the international flavors. Save for the generic “Bang Bang,” nothing felt forced, particularly the wordplay.

Positive messages and simple values dominated K’naan’s rhymes and choruses, equally remarkable for what they included (contagious hooks, intelligent reflections) as for what they lacked (cliched boasts, excessive curses). The Toronto resident’s sincerity erased any doubts regarding his convictions. Hence, the triumph-over-tragedy lessons outlined on “Smile” and “In the Beginning” weren’t a manipulative ploy. Neither was K’naan’s onstage collaboration with Kate, a local 13-year-old girl he saw playing his work onYouTube. Their performance of “Be Free” contained flaws, but the intent — making music a shared experience — resounded.

“Don’t tell me it’s got to be the same,” K’naan spit on “If Rap Gets Jealous,” taking a refreshing stance he supported with seemingly limitless reserves of resolve and ambition.