K’naan is a hip-hop MC out of Toronto, Ontario. (That’s in Canada!) He was born and raised in Somalia, in truly horrific conditions of war and deprivation. He learned to rap — before he even learned English — by imitating the flow of American rappers on bootlegged CDs.

His 2008 debut album, The Dusty Foot Philosopher, created a minor sensation, for good reason (even outside the personal backstory) — it contained a lively mix of styles, some funky live instrumentation, and truly impressive flow. It won Canada’s prestigious (quit giggling) Juno award for rap album of the year.

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K'naan: TroubadourI’ve noticed that his recently released second album, Troubadour, is producing a bit of grumbly backlash in some quarters. It’s too “pop,” apparently. Not “real” hip-hop. As always, that kind of criticism is wanky circle jerking from purists with too much time on their hands. As far as I’m concerned, if a guy can survive growing up in Somalia he pretty much gets credibility for life. And I happen to think the album is a joy, and quite thought provoking to boot.

This song, “ABCs,” is the first single, and boasts a verse from Chubb Rock, who I also love.

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