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.
I’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.