In His Own Words: K'Naan Adapts Fela, Marley, Dylan

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K'Naan at the 9:30 Club (May-Ying Lam)
Somali-born rapper K'Naan has been busy lately. Mostly, he's been touring in support of his second album, Troubadour, with one show last week featuring surprise appearances by Nas and Damien Marley. But Troubadour isn't K'naan's only project. At the end of last year, the rapper spent studio time recording an unofficial mixtape, which he gave to fans for free. K'Naan conceived of this ambitious undertaking, which he calls The Messengers, along with DJ J. Period. The mixtape samples the works of three artists: Afro-beat originator Fela Kuti, reggae legend Bob Marley, and American folk revolutionary Bob Dylan. Though some may call them remixes, K'Naan prefers to think of the trilogy as a tribute.

The Messengers has been available for several months, but the mixtape has gone largely unnoticed. Whenever an unofficial album such as this surfaces, it tends to raise lots of philosophical and moral questions about music ownership. I caught up with K'Naan one recent afternoon to ask him a few questions about the project.

K'Naan talks about where the idea for The Messengers came from:

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How Fela Kuti fits in with Marley and Dylan, and what he means to K'Naan:

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Bridging two worlds - interpreting Bob Dylan:

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Sharing the mixtape with the Marleys, and others:

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K'Naan's philosophy on remixing the music of others, and the role he plays on the mixtape:

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You can download The Messengers in its entireity from J. Period's Web site.

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