K'naan (pronounced /'ke?.n??n/), born Keinan Abdi Warsame (Somali:
Keynaan Cabdi Warsame, Arabic: ????? ???? ?????? Keynan ‘Abdi
Warsamah) in 1978, is a Somali-Canadian poet, rapper, singer,
songwriter, and instrumentalist.
Born in Somalia, K'naan spent his childhood in Mogadishu and
lived there during the Somali Civil War, which began in 1991. His
aunt, Magool, was one of Somalia's most famous singers. K'naan's
grandfather, Haji Mohammad, was a poet. He is Muslim, and his
name, Keinan, means "traveler" in the Somali language.
He spent the early years of his life listening to the hip-hop records
sent to him from America by his father, who had left Somalia earlier.
When he was 13, K'naan, his mother, and his three siblings, older
brother, Liban, and younger sisters Naciimo, and Sagal left their
homeland and joined relatives in New York City, where they stayed
briefly before moving to Canada, to the Toronto neighbourhood of
Rexdale, where there was a large Somali community and his family
still resides. There, K'naan began learning English, partly by
listening to hip hop albums by artists like Nas and Rakim. Despite
the fact that he could not yet speak the language, the young K'naan
taught himself hip-hop and rap diction, copying the lyrics and style
phonetically. He then also began rapping.
While growing up in Rexdale, K'naan spent time in prison and lost
many friends to murder, suicide, prison, and deportation.
He is married to Deqa, a pharmacy technician. They have two sons,
born in 2005 and 2007.
K'naan became a friend and associate of Canadian promoter Sol Guy,
who helped him secure a speaking engagement before the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees in 1999, where K'naan performed a
spoken word piece criticizing the UN for its failed aid missions
to Somalia. 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.
This project led to his work at other UN events, as well as the
Montreal Jazz Festival and the Halifax Pop Explosion. It also helped
him meet Canadian producer Jarvis Church and his Track & Field
team in 2002, who produced his debut album The Dusty Foot Philosopher,
which was released in 2005 to critical acclaim. In 2006, it won the
Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year, and was nominated for the
2006 Polaris Music Prize. It also won the BBC Radio 3 Award for World
Music in the newcomer category for 2007. The Dusty Foot Philosopher
was re-released and re-packaged as a "Deluxe Edition" featuring
new mixes and a bonus DVD in the United States (and various international
territories) by the emerging media company and record label iM (Interdependent
Media, Inc.) in 2008.
Since then, K'naan had been on tour promoting his album and working
on his follow-up release, Troubadour, which he released in the summer
of 2010. It was his debut album for new label, A&M/Octone Records.
He has also collaborated with artists like Nelly Furtado, Mos Def,
Will.i.am, The Roots, Dead Prez, and Pharoahe Monch on tours such
as Live 8 and Breedlove Odyssey. He also collaborated with
Damian Marley on the "Welcome to Jamrock" touring session.
K'naan released The Dusty Foot on the Road, a collection of recording
made during his world tour on Wrasse Records.
K'naan rose to mainstream popularity by participating in the 2008
BET Awards Cypher. This was his first appearance on American television.
His second studio album, Troubadour, was released on 24 February
2009 on A&M/Octone Records, and will be distributed through Universal
Music Group worldwide. The album's first single, "ABC's",
was released to radio in late 2008. K'naan's music has featured in
several video games such as Madden NFL 09 (with his song "ABC's")
and FIFA 06 (with his song "Soobax"). The song "If
Rap Gets Jealous", a re-recording of a track of the same name – with
different verses – from The Dusty Foot Philosopher, features
Metallica lead guitarist Kirk Hammett. K'naan was also the first
featured artist on X3, a collaborative project between CBC Radio
3, Exclaim! magazine and aux.tv to promote new Canadian music.
In July 2010, he performed a cover of U2's "Stuck in a Moment
You Can't Get Out Of" for iheartradio.
 Style and influences
Jim Welte has said K'naan has "a sound that fuses Bob Marley,
conscious American hip-hop, and brilliant protest poetry."
His voice and style have been compared to Eminem, but his subject
matter is very different; according to K'naan, he makes "urgent
music with a message", talking about the situation in his homeland
of Somalia and calling for an end to violence and bloodshed.
He specifically tries to avoid gangsta rap clichés and posturing,
All Somalis know that gangsterism isn't to brag about. The kids that
I was growing up with [in Rexdale] would wear baggy [track] suit
pants, and a little jacket from Zellers or something, and they'd
walk into school, and all the cool kids would be like, 'Ah, man,
look at these Somalis. Yo, you're a punk!' And the other kid won't
say nothing, but that kid, probably, has killed fifteen people. ”
This statement was made to explain his position on the world of
difference which exists between where he grew up, and the ghettos
of the first world. Nonetheless, K'naan denies that he is overtly
political, instead explaining that he "[shows] the state of
the world [and] if you call it like it is you're being political."
His own opinion of his music is that it's a "mix of tradition
and [a] kind of articulation of my own life and [..] my past experiences."
K'naan has said that he is influenced by Somali music and the traditional
instruments of Somalia. His 2009 album, Troubadour, also draws
heavily from Ethiopian sources, particularly Ethio-Jazz by Alemayehu
Eshete and Tilahun Gessesse. These influences can be heard
in the Ethiopian jazz samples in his songs "America", "Dreamer", "Somalia", "ABCs", "Bang
Bang" and "I Come Prepared".
 Live performances
Prior to the release of Troubadour, K'naan performed with a small
acoustic band, consisting of Rayzak (back-up vocals), Kierscey Rand
(acoustic guitar) and UDOGG-The Funky Drummer (djembe and drums).
This style was an essential element of what set K'naan apart from
most hip-hop acts. More than that, it reflected K'naan's value of
meaningful lyrics over shallow theatrics. One of the last performances
of this band was on 16 March 2009 when K'naan rendered four songs
from the newly launched album for CBC's program Q with Jian Ghomeshi,
although Rayzak continued to join his subsequent shows and Kierscey
Rand made occasional appearances, such as his World Cup Trophy Tour.
Since Troubadour, K'naan has toured almost exclusively with a larger
electric ensemble – consisting of drums, bass, electric guitar,
and keyboards  – and his performances now also feature
elaborate lighting. This change in showmanship, along with his collaborations
with such high profile artists as Adam Levine and Mos Def, has helped
to shift K'naan more into the mainstream flow of the music industry
and has helped him gain exposure to a wider audience.
In 2009, K'naan, along with 800 other artists from the Arab world,
participated in the Arabesque: Arts of the Arab World festival at
the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington
D.C.. The three-week gathering, which took five years and $10 million
to organize, is the largest showcase of Arab art ever held in the
United States. The festival featured music, dance, theater and many
art and cultural exhibitions, with artists carefully selected according
to the quality of their artistic performance. Arabesque also provided
a platform from which artists from the Arab world could correct prevailing
and often negative misconceptions regarding their identity, and offered
an opportunity for the participating artists to reclaim their right
to self-definition. K'naan put on a free live show during the festival’s
opening weekend, attracting many fans toward his message of reframing
the limited perception of Arab cultures in North America.
 2010 FIFA World Cup tour
A remixed version of K'naan's single "Wavin' Flag" was
chosen as Coca-Cola's anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup also in
the commercials in the pre-game, held in South Africa. In December
2009, K'naan performed the song live during the sponsor's FIFA World
Cup Trophy Tour, which took him to 86 countries around the world.
 No Show at Simon Fraser University
On 21 September 2010 K’naan was scheduled as the headlining
act of a student organised concert for World Peace Day which was
to benefit girls’ education in rural Ghana. At 11pm the singer
cancelled, for reasons that have been reported as relating to finances.
His manager stated that, "this is the first time in K’naan’s
seven-year career that he has pulled out of a performance for such
a reason". K'naan announced on his twitter following the
concert “amazing how human beings need a bogeyman. It’s
even better when they can turn their heroes to foes. SFU, check your
own back yard for faults.”
* In 2008, K'naan collaborated with the Malian duo Amadou & Mariam
on the song "Africa" from their album Welcome to Mali.
* In 2009, he collaborated with British rock band Keane on two
songs from their EP Night Train including their latest single "Stop
for a Minute" and "Looking Back".
* In 2009, he also collabrated with American rapper Wale on the
song "Um'Ricka" from the mixtape Back to the Feature, and
on the song "TV in the Radio" from Wale's debut album Attention
* In September 2009, K'naan teamed up with J.Period, an L.A.-born
DJ/producer, and released The Messengers, a three volume remix project.
Each volume pays tribute to one music icon: Fela Kuti, Bob Marley
and Bob Dylan. It was released and is hosted online for free at Jperiod.com/knaan.
* K'naan also toured with Jason Mraz during the summer of 2009
for Mraz's Gratitude Cafe Tour. He is currently on tour with Lenny
Kravitz on the LLR tour.
* In 2010, during the Vancouver Olympics, 50 other Canadian musicians
and artists came together with K'naan under the collaboration name
of Young Artists for Haiti at the Bryan Adams Vancouver studios to
produce a charity version of his song "Wavin' Flag". The
music video was released 1 March 2010. String students from Lord
Byng Secondary and Magee Secondary joined together momentarily and
formed an orchestra which accompanied the song. It was released
for digital download on 12 March 2010.
* In 2010, K'naan featured on the first unofficial single, "Mask
on My Face" from Chin Injeti's album, D'tach.
* In 2010, a remixed bilingual English/Spanish version of "Wavin'
Flag" was made under the title "Wavin' Flag (Coca Cola
Spanish Celebration Mix)" with Spanish pop artist David Bisbal
after the song was chosen as the Coca-Cola anthem for the 2010 FIFA
World Cup, to be held in South Africa. K'naan sings the English lyrics
and Bisbal the Spanish lyrics. He also featured Banky W. and M.I
in the Nigerian version of the song "Wavin' Flag", Nancy
Ajram for the Arabic version of the song, féfé for
the French version, Skank for the Brazilian version & will.i.am
and David Guetta for the English version of the song. He also featured
Ai (singer) in the Japanese version of the song under the title "Wavin'
Flag (Coca Cola Japanese Celebration Mix)".
* In 2010, he collaborated with Damian Marley and Nas on the album
Distant Relatives, appearing on the songs "Tribes at War" and "Africa
Must Wake Up". He also helped come up with the "sound" of
certain songs such as As We Enter. The album was released on 18 May
 Awards and nominations
* 2006 Juno Awards
o Rap Recording of the Year for The Dusty Foot Philosopher (Won)
* 2010 Juno Awards
o Rap Recording of the Year for Troubadour (Nominated)
o Artist of the Year (Won)
o Songwriter of the Year (Won)
* 2010 Mobo Awards
o African Artist of the Year (Won)
 In popular culture
 Dispute with k-os
In 2005, the Canadian music scene featured a low-key feud between
K'naan and k-os, one of the most prominent Canadian hip-hop artists.
Following the release of the music video for the song Soobax, which
was shot by K'naan and a film crew in Kenya, k-os released a track
B-Boy Stance attacking K'naan: "They took cameras to Africa
for pictures to rhyme / Over; Oh, yes, the great pretenders [...]
Religious entertainers who want to be life savers." Though the
feud never became high-profile, with K'naan expressing confusion
at the attack and respect for k-os, he nonetheless responded with
the mixtape Revolutionary Avocado which argued "You the all-knowing
with a beer bottle / Wishing you was Plato and me Aristotle? / ...Suburban
negro turned hip-hop hero / Is there a reason he really hates me,
though?" — a rebuttal CBC's Matthew McKinnon called "cold-cocking
 Views on piracy
K'naan states that piracy off the coast of Somalia, while not to
be condoned, has a reason for its existence.
It has no basis, no roots, and I'm not talking about, when I say
basis – it's not the same as justifications [...] but how there
came to be pirates, I think that is probably the most undiscussed
thing in major media today – it's as if they just sprung from
nowhere. But Somalis have long known about the issues. ”
According to K'naan, fishermen organized and armed themselves so
that they could protect their shoreline from illegal dumping of nuclear
toxic waste from private companies. He goes on to state that, "greed
and the lure of money eventually produced what we see today as Somali
piracy". On 15 April 2009 K'naan publicly criticized the
approach to this problem of piracy after the kidnapping of Richard
Phillips of the United States flagged MV Maersk Alabama container
ship 240 nautical miles (440 km; 280 mi) southeast of the Somali
port city of Eyl.
Main article: K'naan discography
* 2004: My Life Is a Movie
* 2005: The Dusty Foot Philosopher
* 2007: The Dusty Foot on the Road
* 2009: Troubadour
* 2005: "Soobax"
* 2005: "Strugglin"
* 2008: "ABCs" (featuring Chubb Rock)
* 2008: "Dreamer"
* 2008: "Somalia"
* 2008: "I Come Prepared" (featuring Damian Marley)
* 2009: "If Rap Gets Jealous” (featuring Kirk Hammett of Metallica)
* 2009: "Wavin' Flag"
* 2010: "Wavin' Flag (The Celebration Mix)"
* 2010: "Wavin' Flag" (featuring will.i.am and David Guetta)
* 2010: "Bang Bang" with Adam Levine
* 2010: "Take a Minute"
Singles with K'naan as a featured guest
* 2006: "Til We Get There" (M-1 featuring K'naan)
* 2009: "L'Arme de Paix" (Oxmo Puccino featuring K'naan)
* 2009: "Think of All the Things" (KRS-One & Buckshot featuring
* 2010: "In Jamaica" (Beatnick & K-Salaam featuring K'naan and
* 2010: "Wavin' Flag" with Young Artists for Haiti
* 2010: "Wavin' Flag (Coca Cola Spanish Celebration Mix)" (with David
* 2010: "Wavin' Flag (Coca Cola Arabic Celebration Mix)" (with
* 2010: "Wavin' Flag (Coca Cola Japanese Celebration Mix)" (with
* 2010: "Mask On My Face" (Chin Injeti featuring K'naan)
* 2010: "Each Tear" (Mary J Blige featuring K'naan)
* 2010: "Stop for a Minute" (Keane featuring K'naan)
* 2010: "Tribes at War" (from Distant Relatives with Nas and Damian
Marley featuring K'naan)
* 2010: "Africa Must Wake Up" (from Distant Relatives with Nas and
Damian Marley featuring K'naan)
* K'naan (1 February 2007). "Talking bacK to the Empire".
Toronto: Now. http://www.nowtoronto.com/news/story.cfm?content=156808.
Retrieved 22 May 2010.