Tiny Desk

K'naan

Though his appearance at the NPR Music office qualifies as the first-ever hip-hop Tiny Desk Concert, Somali-born rapper K'naan isn't one to adhere to a single genre. Given that he released a song called "If Rap Gets Jealous" earlier this year (hear him perform it at SXSW here), it's no surprise that this show found him infusing his music with the sounds of soul, pop and reggae. With the help of a crack backing band, his three-song set — all drawing from this spring's marvelous Troubadour — exuded shimmery grace.

K'naan grew up in war-torn Mogadishu — he moved to Toronto at 13 and learned English with the help of Eric B & Rakim records — which helps lend grittiness to his storytelling. But in "Fatima," performed here, he tells the story of a lost childhood friend with gentle humor and a sober understanding of what our loved ones leave behind. That song is sandwiched between two magnificent inspirational anthems: "Wavin' Flag" and "Take a Minute," both of which are as uplifting as they are shot through with real-world perspective. Together, the three songs add up to a miniature concert that's sweet and stirring while backing up what we've been saying for months: K'naan has the makings of a global superstar who's as inspiring as his songs are infectious.

SETLIST

  • "Take a Minute"
  • "Fatima"
  • "Wavin' Flag"

To watch last week's Tiny Desk Concert with Sondre Lerche, click here.

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