R E U P L O U D
Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, K’naan spent his childhood in the district of Wardhiigleey (”The Lake of Blood”) during the Somali Civil War, which began in 1991. His aunt, Magool, was one of Somalia’s most famous singers. K’naan’s grandfather, Haji Mohamed, was a poet. K’naan is also a Muslim. His name, K’naan, means “traveller” in the Somali language.
K’naan’s father, Abdi, left the country, along with many other intellectuals to settle in New York City and work as a cab driver. He mailed money home to his family. As the civil war continued and the situation in Somalia continued to deteriorate, K’naan’s mother, Marian Mohamed, petitioned the United States embassy for an exit visa. In 1991, on the last day the US embassy remained open as the government of Mohamed Siad Barre collapsed their visa was approved, and they boarded the last commercial flight out of the country.
They joined relatives in Harlem, New York City, before moving to the Toronto, Ontario neighbourhood of Rexdale, where there was a large Somali Canadian community. His family still lives there. In his new country, K’naan began learning English, some through hip hop albums by artists like Nas and Rakim. Despite speaking no English, the young K’naan taught himself hip hop and rap diction, copying the lyrics and style phonetically. He then also began rapping. He dropped out of school in grade ten to travel for a time, rapping at open mic events, and eventually returned to Toronto.
K’naan became a friend and associate of Canadian promoter, Sol Guy, who helped him secure a gig speaking before the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 1999, where K’naan performed a spoken word piece criticizing the UN for its failed aid missions to Somalia. One of the audience members, Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour, was so impressed by the young MC’s performance and courage that he invited him to contribute to his 2001 album Building Bridges, a project through which K’naan was able to tour the world.
This project lead to his work at other UN events, as well as the Montreal Jazz Festival and the Halifax Pop Explosion. It also helped him meet Canadian producer Jarvis Church and his Track & Field team in 2002, who produced his debut album The Dusty Foot Philosopher, which was released in 2005 to critical acclaim.
In 2006, it won the Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year, and was nominated for the inaugural Polaris Music Prize. It also won the BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music in the newcomer category for 2007. The Dusty Foot Philosopher will be re-released and re-packaged as a “Deluxe Edition” featuring new mixes and a bonus DVD in the United States (and various international territories) by the emerging media company and record label iM (Interdependent Media, Inc.) in 2008.
Since then, he has been on tour promoting his album and working on his follow-up release, “Troubadour,” his debut album for new label A&M/Octone Records. He has also been working with artists like Nelly Furtado, Mos Def, The Roots, Dead Prez, and Pharoahe Monch on tours such as Live and Breedlove Odyssey. He also collaborated with Damian Marley on the “Welcome to Jamrock” touring session.
In 2005, the Canadian music scene featured a low-key feud between K’naan and k-os, one of the most prominent Canadian hip-hop artists. Following the release of the music video for the song Soobax, which was shot by K’naan and a film crew in Kenya, k-os released a track B-Boy Stance attacking K’naan : “They took cameras to Africa for pictures to rhyme / Over; Oh, yes, the great pretenders [...] Religious entertainers who want to be life savers.” Though the feud never became high-profile, with K’naan expressing confusion at the attack and respect for k-os, he nonetheless responded with the mixtape Revolutionary Avocado which argued “You the all-knowing with a beer bottle / Wishing you was Plato and me Aristotle? / …Suburban negro turned hip-hop hero / Is there a reason he really hates me, though?” — a rebuttal CBC’s Matthew McKinnon called “cold-cocking the champ”. He recently released The Dusty Foot on the Road, a collection of recording made during his recent world tour on Wrasse Records.
His second studio album, Troubadour, was released on February 24, 2009 on A&M/Octone Records, and will be distributed through Universal Music Group worldwide. The album’s first single, “ABC’s”, was released to radio in late 2008. K’naan has featured in several video games such as “Madden NFL 09? with his song ABC’s, and “Fifa 06? with his song soobax. The song “If Rap Gets Jealous”, a rerecording of a track of the same name - with different verses - from The Dusty Foot Philosopher, features Metallica lead guitarist Kirk Hammett. K’naan was also the first featured artist on X3, a collaborative project between CBC Radio 3, Exclaim! magazine and aux.tv to promote new Canadian music.
Rapper K'Naan is one of the rapidly rising stars of world music. Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, he now lives in Canada, but his experiences as a refugee and growing up in a war zone inform his lyrics with a vivid vivacity.
He's a charismatic performer on stage - as witnessed last weekend in Glastonbury - and his words have a haunting poetry: "Muslims, Jews and Christians war, no one's left to praise the Lord". K'Naan's admirers include many who are not usually interested in rap music.
This strong album includes live performances captured in both Djibouti and New York, although he should find himself a better djembe drum player to improve things musically.
01. K'naan - Wash It Down (2:15)
02. K'naan - Soobax (3:42)
03. K'naan - What's Hardcore? (3:36)
04. K'naan - My Old Home (3:06)
05. K'naan - Moment (0:10)
06. K'naan - I Was Stabbed By Satan (3:50)
07. K'naan - My God (0:22)
08. K'naan - Smile (4:03)
09. K'naan - If Rap Gets Jealous (4:18)
10. K'naan - The Dusty Foot Philosopher (3:56)
11. K'naan - Strugglin' (4:25)
12. K'naan - In The Beginning (3:21)
13. K'naan - Hoobaale (5:05)
14. K'naan - The African Way (feat. Mwafrika) (4:20)
15. K'naan - Voices In My Head (4:00)
16. K'naan - Boxing My Shadow (4:29)
17. K'naan - For Mohamound (Soviet) (0:32)
18. K'naan - Until The Lion Learns To Speak (8:55)