Marley connoisseurs have been up on K’Naan for years now, but now that the poet/emcee/self-proclaimed “visual stenographer” is finally getting his shine, the rest of the world is starting to catch up. It seems a little ironic that his face is popping up all over MTV now—on the strength of his hit single “ABCs” featuring Chubb Rock—since his appeal lies in his humble origins. Originally from Somalia, K’Naan’s music reflects the strife of his homeland, although he balances his graphic descriptions of survival and political struggle with a rhythmically calming flow and catchy chants (check the addictive hook of “Waving Flag”):

K’Naan’s debut album, The Dusty Foot Philosopher, dropped in 2006 with nothing more than a whisper here in the States but it seems as if his latest effort, Troubadour, is having more of an impact. Recorded at the Marley family’s Tuff Gong studios in Kingston Jamaica, the record serves up a seamless blend of reggae, funk, pop, soul and hip-hop. As for lyrical content of Troubadour, the grandson of Haji Mohamed—one of Somalia’s most famous poets—provides a thought-provoking alternative to the glorification of the ghetto, offering a timely reminder that you haven’t really seen the hood ’til you’ve seen one in the third world. “It is so much harder and so much more violent in Somalia,” says K’Naan. “If you want to be like, ‘I’m from the hood. We got it rough. We got gats,’ I think you should know the alternative exists. I’m speaking in the same language of hip-hop which decidedly speaks about rough neighborhoods. So if there is a place for rough neighborhoods, then here comes the Mother of Rough Neighborhoods.”

—Rajul Punjabi


If you’re ready for a totally different point of view, check out the man’s take on the Somali pirate situation.

AND IF YOU DON’T KNOW NOW YA KNOW…

In case you’re playing catch up, check out K’Naan’s first big tune off his much-slept-on Dusty Foot Philosopher album. “Soobax” means “come out” in English.

Confirmed tour dates for K’NAAN:

3/07                 St Petersburg, FL                     Jannus Landing

3/09                 Portland, OR                           Doug Fir

3/10                 Seattle, WA                             Neumos

3/11                 Vancouver, BC                        Commodore Ballroom

3/12                 Nelson, BC                              Finley’s Irish Bar & Grill

3/13                 Calgary, AB                             Marquee Room

3/14                 Edmonton, AB                         The Pawn Shop

3/15                 Saskatoon, SK                          Louis Pub

3/19                 Austin, TX                                SXSW

4/17                 Indio, CA                                  Coachella