by Thom Saczkowski
Basics Issue #13 (Apr/May 2009)
K’Naan is a new and rising musician, having released his sophomore album in February of this year. After the success of his first album, The Dusty Foot Philosopher, his second has been much anticipated. K’Naan receives press not only for his diverse music styles and lyrical flow, but also because of what he says. Somali born, K’Naan now makes his home in Toronto. Though he has been asked to provide his viewpoint of the situation in Somalia, he rarely addresses the influence of Western capitalism and imperialism within his home nation. In addition, K’Naan lived in the Toronto community of Rexdale for some time, and words in interviews and his music doesn’t express the struggles of local communities. His lyrics and messages in his new album are nowhere near as overt as the artists that we generally associate with politically focused music, such as Immortal Technique, Dead Prez, or The Coup. K’Naan seems to be aware of this and embrace his choice of music, in which he has said “My art is not a place where I feel like I voice these things. It’s not like my art is a political mission … but it’s me that I bring fully to the table, so you’ll get some of those things.”
K’Naan does make some statements about the struggles of people, such as migrants and people in marginalized communities that face the oppression of our system. However, many famous hip-hop musicians make comments about the social system, such as artists like Mos Def, Black Star, and K-os, but those musicians are not usually associated with sending politically strong messages. K’Naan’s music is more associated with these artists in his ability to produce high quality hip-hop and provide artistic lyrics with an impressive flow. K’Naan’s music is complex in not only its musical composition but its lyrical presentation, such as the song Somalia, which tells about his life in Mogadishu and incorporating sounds and samples from various genres. K’Naan’s first single ‘ABC’s’ is already on the charts and will be played throughout nightclubs in Toronto.