Originally hailing from Mogadishu, Somalia, K'naan ("traveller" in Somali) fled to Toronto at age 14 to escape the horrifically unstable situation in that country. Upon arrival in Canada, he learned to speak English, as well as his ability to rhyme, through listening to rappers such as Nas and Rakim. Since then, he's used what he's learned to make some incredibly powerful and socially conscious music.
Start out with one part Bob Marley, and another part of Fela Kuti, and mix in some Fugees for good measure and you'll get a sense of what K'naan is bringing. Through all of the blending and melding of sounds though, he keeps hold of his roots and uses his music as a vehicle of protest against his home country being torn apart from the inside.
His debut album, The Dusty Foot Philosopher, is tentatively scheduled to be released in the US in July, but if you can't wait it is already out in Canada (it actually won the 2006 Juno Award for Best Rap Recording) and is available as an import. In the meantime, enjoy the following live songs to get a flavor of his afro-flavored beats.
K'naan - In the Beginning (live)
K'naan - Be Free ( live)
K'naan - Soobox (live) (watch the video)
Catch K’naan at the end of his Mind Control North American Tour:
5/15 Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Concert Theatre
5/17 Windsor, ON @ Chrysler Theater
5/18 Atlanta, GA @ The Roxy
5/19 Saint Petersburg, FL @ Jannus Landing
5/20 Orlando, FL @ House of Blues
Bob Marley and the Wailers - No Woman, No Cry : Live!
Fela Kuti - Suffering & Smiling : Music Is The Weapon Of The Future
The Fugees - Vocab (Refugees Hip Hop Remix) : Fugees: Greatest Hits