Last updated: 01/10/2013 02:51:00 PM
K'naan Warsame (b. in 1978) is a Somali-Canadian musician and singer.
K’Naan is one of those artists from the Hip Hop generation. Growing up on the dusty streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, even from an early age he was listening and dropping verses from Nas and Rakim. His is an authentic voice forged by civil war and refugee experiences and strongly influenced by Somali culture and family history.
Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, just as the civil unrest that rocked the country was beginning, rapper K'Naan spent the early years of his life trying to avoid death and listening to the hip-hop records that his father, who had left Somalia earlier, sent to him from America. When K'Naan (whose name means "traveler" in Somali) was 13, he, his mother, and his two siblings were able to leave their homeland and join relatives in Harlem, where they stayed briefly before moving to Rexdale, Ontario, where there was a large Somali community. As soon as K'Naan's English started improving he began rapping, and in tenth grade he dropped out of school and traveled around North America for two years, performing occasionally. Through his friendship with Sol Guy, part of promotion team Direct Current Media, K'Naan was able to perform at the United Nations' 50th anniversary concert in 1999, held in Geneva, where he used his platform to publicly criticize the United Nations' handling of the Somali crisis in the 1990s. One of the audience members, Senegalese singer Youssou N'Dour, was so impressed by the young MC's performance and courage that he invited him to contribute to his 2001 album Building Bridges, a project through which K'Naan was able to tour the world. In 2002 K'Naan met Jarvis Church, part of the Track and Field Productions team that helped to propel Nelly Furtado to fame, a connection that eventually led to a record. The Dusty Foot Philosopher came out in Canada in 2005, and was followed with tour spots with Mos Def and Talib Kweli, as well as a performance at Live 8. Marisa Brown, All Music Guide
"I'm poor, a refugee been in prison and survived a war/I come from, the most dangerous city in this universe/You're likely to get shot at birth, so how could rap quench my thirst?," the rapper proclaims as he questions his desire to be an emcee in the midst of his harsh reality.
But K'Naan believes that making music to tell stories is a good way to spread the word about what happens to people in places around the world unfamiliar to them. "If you're going to make music I think it should contribute in some way," he said. "It doesn't have to change the world, it could just be a good melody."
His music is more than just a good melody. K'Naan makes music that tells about the lives of people who have suffered as he and his family have. "My experiences aren't just mine," he said. "It's just that I can articulate them in English."