K’naan arrives on the rap scene with an original style

With the audacity of Will.i.am, rhymes of Eminem and mindset of Bob Marley, breakout hip-hop artist K’naan appears to be the perfect package in one of the harshest industries.

 Born and raised in Somalia, but currently living in Toronto, K’naan’s style is a fresh fusion of African beats, American lyrics and insightful prose. It is hard to pinpoint which genre K’naan falls under because he covers a variety of different styles of modern music in his songs including hip-hop, rap, reggae, pop and rock. What is certain is that he has introduced an innovative and eclectic approach to hip-hop music that just may change the game. 

 K’naan’s successful debut was marked with the release of his 2005 album The Dusty Foot Philosopher where his compelling parallels between Africa and North America were showcased. His sophomore album, Troubadour was released on Feb. 24, and while it is gets a bit too mainstream, he still does not disappoint. 

 A reminiscent raconteur, K’naan frequently alludes to Somalia’s harsh realities in his albums. In both songs “What’s Hardcore?” and “T.I.A.” (which stands for “This is Africa”), he satirizes American gangster culture by contrasting it to African street culture filled with gangs, guns and anarchy, inviting ‘gangsters’ to reevaluate what a hard life really is. 

 Lyrically, K’naan is as unique as artists come. He based the majority of The Dusty Foot Philosopher on his childhood experiences in Somalia, distinguishing him from other hip-hop artists. K’naan relates to issues like child soldiery in “Smile” as he verses, “Cause how will you be heard when those big boys are firing’/War is no place for a child,” and of failed education systems in Africa on Troubadour’s “ABC’s” (featuring Chubb Rock) where he chants “They don’t teach us the ABC’s/We play hard on the concrete/All we got is life on the streets.”

 K’naan’s knack for storytelling captivates virtually any listener, as many of his songs voice tear-jerking tales of war-torn children, battered women and uneducated teenagers. Though his stories may not always be relatable, they are meant to serve as an eye-opener for the naïve Americans he caters to.

 The days of rap and hip-hop centered on gangs, drug use and sexually violating women is a tired fad. K’naan has created a new generation of hip-hop that focally provides insight on current social and political issues in Africa as well as the rest of the world that sets an example for up and coming artists.