Life on the Streets
Posted on June 26, 2009
Haven’t got around to doing a new “What We’re Listening To” in a while so here you go.
K’naan’s been getting a great deal of attention lately and I really like his music and story. Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, K’naan spent his childhood in the district of Wardhiigleey (“The River of Blood“) and lived there during the Somali Civil War, which began in 1991. His aunt, Magool, was one of Somalia’s most famous singers. K’naan’s grandfather, Haji Mohamed, was a poet. K’naan is also a Muslim, his name, means “traveller” in the Somali language. His dad, Abdi left the country and became a cab driver in New York. He began to send money, hip hop records, and whatever else he could to his family back home. As the civil war continued and the situation in Somalia continued to deteriorate, K’naan’s mother, Marian Mohamed, petitioned the U.S. embassy for an exit visa. In 1991, on the last day the US embassy remained open as the government of Mohamed Siad Barre collapsed their visa was approved, and they boarded the last commercial flight out of the country.
They stayed in Harlem with relatives for a little bit, but later moved to Toronto, Canada. K’naan began learning English, some through hip hop albums by artists like Nas and Rakim. Despite speaking no English, the young K’naan taught himself hip hop and rap diction, copying the lyrics and style phonetically. He then also began rapping. He dropped out of school at grade ten to travel for a time. During his travels he began to rap at open mic events and small shows of that nature. His first album(2005) The Dusty Foot Philosopher, won the Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year the following year.