Hailing from Mogadishu, Somalia, known as the Nation of Poets, K’naan is contributing a new voice to hip-hop music—a voice rooted in the sounds of chaos from a country that has lacked a central government for the past twenty years. K’naan’s lyrics allude to the generations of people ravaged by colonial powers and whose lament have yet to be heard.
The response to the Dusty Foot Philosopher has taken on more meaning than simply “reppin’ for the block.” “People are proud of what we are doing and take ownership,” K’naan says.
“We speak for people who have been voiceless for quite some time.”
His first introduction to hip-hop was at the age of 11. His father who had traveled to and from the United States brought back with him an Eric B and Rakim record to which K’naan mimicked the words and grasped the meaning albeit the language barrier. Like poetry, “hip-hop does not have a language or a land; it’s universal,” says K’naan.
“Hip-hop forces you to develop your own style. To be an individual you want to be great but you want to be unique. At least I did. There used to be a things called “biting.” It was the worst thing an MC could be, now it’s part for the course,” he says.
In his sophomore album, The Troubadour (Early 2009), K’naan gives thanks to his home country in the titled track and takes a minute to rep the “S” in “Take A Minute”, a remix of “ABC’s” featuring Chubb Rock.
“I take inspiration from the most heinous of situations…Dear Africa, you helped me write this by showing me to give is priceless.”
As for his new album, K’naan does not seek to tell just one story, but rather provide a journey for people who want to experience a new sound. “I don’t think you can anticipate what people will feel when you make music as it is so personal. Ultimately, you want it to be personal for them as it was for you in creating. You write for one and perhaps touch all,” he says.