K’naan: Africano

Somalian born lyricist K’naan is far left of the normal gangster, hipster, or baller acts that rip the air waves today. His anti-norm noise contains worldly sounds of reggae, rock, and Hip-Hop which lay background to lyrics of struggle, spiritually and empowerment. Without being anymore obvious, K’naan simply cannot be compared to the musical efforts […]

Somalian born

lyricist K’naan is far left of the normal gangster, hipster, or baller acts

that rip the air waves today. His anti-norm noise

contains worldly sounds of reggae, rock, and Hip-Hop which

lay background to lyrics of struggle, spiritually and empowerment.

Without being anymore obvious, K’naan simply cannot be compared to the musical

efforts of the mass amounts of self contained artists sprawled across the

musical universe.


K’naan gained his first breath of wax on the

afro-beat compilation Building Bridges

and since has propelled into a solo calling as the voice of the struggle seen

in distant places that most Americans fears to think about. His debut, The Dusty Foot Philosopher, was an

extreme success, winning awards and accolades validating himself as an artist

and a musician, and more importantly, as a voice of the unheard.

Now four years since

his dusty debut, K’naan has decided to release the

beast in the form of his sophomore effort Troubadour.

The LP has already acclaimed success in frontiers spanning above and beyond

Hip-Hop and is another example of the thoughts, stories, and rhymes that dwell

within the soft spoken wordsmith.


AllHipHop.com: So many artists claim that they are “different” from

the norm, some rightfully so, but the sound of Troubadour cannot be denied as being unique and diverse Do you

agree that it’s a sound of its own?


K’naan: Yeah, I feel like it’s a sound of its

own. And so I want it to be recognized as such. That it’s a standard on its sound;

it’s not trying to mimic something. It’s creating something, so that’s kind of

how I see it. With no ego attached, I feel like that’s what it is. It just

happens though, that’s the thing. I only realize after listening to the whole

thing, that it’s doing those things. But it’s just my instinct that works like

that. I’ll be in the studio with another artist and we may be collaborating or

just thinking about a song and then we’ll play some chords and the way that I

might do, the way I might accent a thing or do the time signature of the drum

pattern or think of certain melody or the chord progression, all the artists I

meet always say, “That’s different, I would never think of it that way.”


AllHipHop.com: How

do you think you acquired that musical talent?


K’naan: I think from growing up in a whole

other culture and also really being musically wide open, listening to different

kinds of music and traveling. And having a real sensibility, a lyrical

sensibility, street sensibility, but then being able to transfer that to the



AllHipHop.com: You

really do bring your experiences of the world to your music, most artists in

Hip-Hop do not take these experiences and bring them to their music, and they

stay one dimensional.


K’naan: Yeah! And that’s weird to me because

if you have the opportunity to do that, see the world, how could you not bring

something back for the people that you come from. It’s kind of selfish.


AllHipHop.com: Nothing

against artists who do not do so, but it’s almost like cheating their fans out

of a new knowledge and experience through the words.


K’naan: Yeah, you are right. They do travel

the world, these artists have been everywhere, some

have even heard orchestras from the Czech Republic. How could that not be

interesting at some point? I just think we all have equal opportunity in that

we hear it while we travel as musicians and artists. But giving credit where

credit is due, some of these artists focus is expressing the moment in time and

where they’re at. So that’s where they’re at and they feel they need to talk

about that. So that’s cool, but for me I’m interested just as well on where

we’re going.


AllHipHop.com: The

title, Troubadour, means a traveling

poet. Why do you feel that these world issues that you talk about are so

important for people to hear especially when we’re in an America where

everything is focused on our

problems, our economic troubles, our woes.


K’naan: It’s kind of strange in that people

still don’t realize that those are not separate things. That

the [world’s] issues are your economic crisis; it’s really the same thing and

its one thing. And when you travel you get to really see that it’s one

thing, that the cause and effect is not state wide, cause and effect is global.

Honestly man, from knowing my music, you know that I don’t preach nothing. It’s

just there; if we don’t talk about it it’s actually true to say that we’re

making an effort to ignore it. It’s not making an effort to say it, because

it’s there. It’s making an effort to ignore it.


AllHipHop.com: You’ve always stated that that music has not

changed since your debut, but as an artist how have you evolved since you first

penned The Dusty Foot Philosopher?


K’naan: I grew as an artist, I grew musically.

A lot of the musical growth is something I put together on this album. But I

think that the most interesting place for me as far as growing as a lyricist

and an artist is that during The Dusty Foot Philosopher I cared to show

you and for you to know. In some subconscious way a lot of people can’t hear it

in the music, I think I partly cared back then that you know I’m good. Like, I

had lines on that album that are like, “Oh s**t, that’s dope.” And I know it is

too, but I didn’t really need to say that because I know it’s good. If you know

it’s good do you always have to show that it’s good too? So like for this album

I didn’t do that, for this album I felt so grown about things that I stayed

away from ill lines and similes that I could’ve put in there because I’m

telling a story. This is good that’s it, I don’t need

to show you that it is.


I think it is grace because that’s the kind of artist I love. Bob

Marley wasn’t trying to show you nothing. Even literature, when I read books,

for example there’s a girl named Zadie Smith and she has a book named White

Teeth and she’s brilliant. I remember reading this book and thinking, “Wow,

she’s a genius. Her similes are incredible, it’s amazing.” At some point I was

like, “Ah, I get what you’re doing. You’re showing me: one too many similes,

one too many good lines, one too many flexing of this thing.” It’s like well,

you don’t need to show me anything as an artist you just need to reveal a

world, not show me how good you are at revealing the world.


AllHipHop.com: Do you feel that your songs have appropriately

revealed your world in Somalia and your struggles of your past?


K’naan: I

try, and I know songs that I have constructed out of real personal scenarios,

which otherwise I couldn’t have a conversation about. It would not have been

physically possible for me to sit down with my friends and recount those things

without completely falling into serious depression. I made rhymes out of them

and kids sing along and I’m watching them sing it and at some point it’s just

a song.


AllHipHop.com: How do you handle putting out your story especially

when like you said, it becomes just a song?


K’naan: Well,

that’s an interesting question. The truth is that my story is a country

disguised as a person. So in that sense it’s all personal

but at the same time it’s all universal because my story speaks to millions of

people. I feel comfortable because it’s bringing to life something necessary

for an entire people. I’m just kind of like the prototype story, like the norm

for them, the strange for everybody else. And that’s why that’s okay for me.

 ABCs Official Video – KNaan

AllHipHop.com: Critics of your music always try to compare your

sound because they simply cannot display your music alone. Instead of being

infused between this artist and that artist, what do you feel you should be

seen as?


K’naan: Wow,

good question. An artist; possibly someone who is in their

personal life rebellious, and maybe that leads over to the music. Someone who is truly interested in contributing something genuine

to the world of music. That’s it. I don’t think of myself as any other man.

All the other things they bring up to make sense of my music and who I am and

all of that are complements, everything from Eminem to Bob Marley (laughs), it

spans massively. But I’m really just K’naan, and I’m trying to get songs off of

my chest.