At age 9, K'NAAN was doing what most American kids were doing. He was hanging out on his neighborhood street corner, MCing for his friends, dropping rap verses, dreaming of a day when he would possess the lyrical skills and the rhythmic flow of his hip hop heroes. K'NAAN, however, was very different from those American kids. He was an African and he was on the other side of the world on the dusty streets of Mogadishu, Somalia. And although he was rappin' verses from Nas and Rakim and all the other great American MCs with an almost eerie attention to detail and pronunciation, he could not speak English.
As hip hop passes the quarter century mark, it has evolved in ways no one could have imagined. It has gone from underground to mainstream, from black to multi-racial, from American to international. It has reached the very furthest corners of the world and planted its seeds in the souls of kids from every country. K'NAAN is a child of that generation, the first generation of true hip hop children who have grown out of a very foreign soil.
From a personal and cultural history rooted in poetry (being the grandson of one of Somalia's most famous poets ), K'NAAN widens the traditional hip hop perspective, from ghettos to slums, from drug dealers to warlords, from 9mm and eagle 440s to AKs and rocket propelled grenades. "Where I'm from, there are no police or fire fighters, we start riots by burning car tires," from K'NAAN's song entitled "What's Hardcore."
Leaving Somalia at the age of thirteen on what turned out to be the very last commercial flight to ever do so, amidst a crumbling society and the end to this day of any form of central government, K'NAAN carried with him a very strong sense of purpose.
In 2001, after gaining notoriety as a skilled MC and spoken word poet, K'NAAN was invited to Geneva to perform a spoken word piece at the 50th anniversary of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. He brought the house down with his politically charged poem. K'NAAN explains that, "I basically called out the UN for its failed relief mission in Somalia." The audience was so moved by the piece that they gave K'NAAN a standing ovation. African superstar Youssou N'Dour, who was also in attendance, loved the performance so much that he invited K'NAAN to Senegal to record with him.
Similarly, in Toronto in 2002 while recording a verse for a War Child benefit track entitled "Keep the Beat," K'NAAN's unique flow caught the attention of artist/producer Jarvis Church, one half of the Grammy Award–winning production team Track & Field (with Nelly Furtado). From there, a creative partnership began that would lead to the creation of K'NAAN's first full-length album, The Dusty Foot Philosopher.  K'NAAN creates urgent "music with a message" because his whole existence depends on it. By most accounts, the Dusty Foot Philosopher is well on his way.
K'NAAN’s discography includes The Dusty Foot Philosopher (2005), The Dusty Foot on the Road (2007), and Troubador, scheduled for release in February 2009.

Watch Past Performances

Video 2/27/2009: K'NAAN

Hailing from war-torn Mogadishu, Somalia, hip hop artist K’NAAN grew up during the Somali civil war. Despite speaking no English, he taught himself hip hop and rap diction. Critics have said K’NAAN has “a sound that fuses Bob Marley, conscious American hip hop, and brilliant protest poetry.”