The Somali Rapper, Singer, and Activist Raises Questions About Do-Gooders Like Invisible Children

The most viral video in history is a 30-minute documentary called “Stop Kony.” The horrific clip about an African warlord with an army of child soldiers and underage prostitutes was viewed over 100 million times in a week, generating millions of dollars in donations to the organization Invisible Children. Soon thereafter Invisible Children’s founder, Jason Russell, went a little crazy in Cali—stripping butt naked and galavanting through the streets of San Diego. And that  was before a video emerged of one of his colleagues swigging vodka and “joking” about pocketing 90% of the donations. Suffice it to say that there are serious questions to be raised about do-gooders trying to “save Africa.” To get some perspective, we caught up with K’Naan, whose song “Coming To America,” off his latest EP More Beautiful Than Silence, tells the story of his upbringing in Somalia. “I’ve gotten hundreds of messages about the ‘stop Kony’ thing,” he said. “[They’re like] ‘Would you say something about the ‘Stop Kony.’ Stop Kony!'” Though K’Naan takes the well-being of African people very seriously, he refused to get caught up in the #StopKony hype. Here’s why…

Who is Joseph Kony?

He’s this warlord in Northern Uganda, and these kids Invisible Children made a 30-minute video about him that millions of people are watching and made it big. And so there’s millions of kids on Twitter who have taken up this campaign, to #StopKony. But he’s nobody to be stopped at the moment. The idea is from 2004.

They just caught onto it now?

Now. And the campaign just started. All these kids think it’s urgent. Like, “Do it! Help! The kids are walking.” The kids are not walking anymore. That guy is probably in Congo, injured and starving.

So it’s not about him right now. It’s whoever filled that vaccum.

It’s just about the system. It’s not about that one guy. There’s never one great evil guy and everybody else is a victim.

So who picks that to be cause of the moment?

These charity kids who are like, they wanna have meaning. They wanna do something. The kid who started Invisible Children, I was doing a talk at Harvard, and the kid who introduced me posed a question. I said something and it must have destroyed him. I just wasn’t interested in what he had to say, and all this sensation…

This guy was part of Invisible Children?

He is the guy who started it.

So it was one of those questions that’s not a question but a statement. He basically just wanted a cosign.

Yes, and he wanted me to be part of his energetic, passionate idea. And I was like, It could very well be that you and I can be at odds about this. I said, You seem really excited. And I’m not excited because I kind of have a picture about the whole thing. I don’t know that what you’re doing—“Let’s go fix this thing”—is the way to do it. Because it’s not susceptible to the societies you’re talking about. And also they don’t know you and you’re not from that society. It’s like if I came to fix New Jersey’s health care. Or something even more remote, like in Iowa.