K'naan: Hip-Hop As A Second Language

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Set List

  • "Fire in Freetown"
  • "Take a Minute"
  • "Wavin' Flag"
  • "Fatima"

Put together astonishing lyricism and a talent for rhythm that recalls both hip-hop and the traditional music of Somalia, and you've got the gripping music of singer, rapper and poet K'naan. He was born Keinan Abdi Warsame in war-torn Somalia, and the violent backdrop of his childhood deeply influenced the budding musician. So did East Africa's artistic heritage: His aunt Magool was one of Somalia's most famous singers, while his grandfather was a highly acclaimed poet.

K'naan; courtesy of the artist i

K'naan. courtesy of the artist hide caption

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K'naan; courtesy of the artist


courtesy of the artist

K'naan's family moved to Ontario when he was a teenager, and he first began learning English by listening to rap albums. By the tenth grade, he'd started to travel and perform, and in 1999, he performed a spoken-word piece for the U.N., criticizing what he deemed insufficient support for Somalia. Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour was in attendance, and was so impressed by the young poet that he invited K'naan to contribute to N'Dour's 2001 album, Building Bridges.

K'naan has just released his fourth album, Troubadour, which features performances by Metallica's Kirk Hammett, Chubb Rock, Chali 2na, Mos Def, Damien Marley and Adam Levine. Troubadour amply demonstrates K'naan's ability to graft together contemporary African music, American hip-hop and deeply poetic lyrics.

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