Known as a fiercely political hip-hop artist, K’Naan has also gained notoriety throughout the world as a Somalian emigre who managed to escape the brutality of Mogadishu at the last second. But K’Naan is trying to move on from his past, letting his music do the talking. His music has won awards in both Canada and Europe, and with the release of The Dusty Foot on the Road, a sort-of companion album to The Dusty Foot Philosopher with four new songs in addition to favourites from his first album, people have been trying to classify him and put him into musical genres. But K’Naan doesn’t feel that labelling is necessary.
“In Canada, I won the Juno for Best Rap Album, but in Britain, I won the BBC World Music award,” explains K’Naan. “So, I try not to think about what it is. It’s just music.”
Fresh off a July tour through the European music festivals, K’Naan is on a quick October jaunt through Canada. His music has been universally accepted, as the call-to-action political nature combined with personal stories devoted to his personal history and the history of Africa itself have leant itself to a universal acceptance from hipsters to urban youth.
“It’s universal; people react to the music very much the same in Europe as North America,” explains K’Naan. “People react to music the same played live, they understand what I’m trying to do, trying to say and react very positively to it.”
Musically, K’Naan’s influences are varied; critically lauded for the many different styles and beats all loaded into one record, his music recalls the pounding surf of the Somali coast, African tribal music, and even the cold and lonely Toronto streets.
“I’ve travelled around the world,” says K’Naan. “My music reflects that.”
K’Naan—“traveller” in Somali—has lived all throughout the world. Growing up in Somalia until the age of 13, moving to New York for a period of time before settling in Toronto, he has finally come into his own as an artist. With such a wide, varied style, his name truly describes his life: travelling around the world and integrating the musical styles he hears into an infectious brand of politicized hip-hop.