I have mentioned him before on the blog, but one of the most exciting artists I have come across during the past few years is the Somalian (by way of Toronto) hip-hop artist K'naan. His album came out in Canada and England almost 2 years ago and it has been in my heavy rotation the entire time (I stumbled upon it looking for innovative rap at the end of 2006, finding it on emusic).
Listening to this young man with a nasal voice (ala Eminem) and rapid fire, almost spoken word (ala Quasimodo) with the frontal assault of Public Enemy coupled with traditional African instrumentation and rhythm, it was among the freshest things I had heard in years.
I questioned his boast, "I come from the most dangerous place on earth" until I found out his hometown was Mogadishu. I laughed at his line, "If I rapped about home and got descriptive, I'd make 50 Cent look like Limp Bizkit" but a lump was in my throat knowing his childhood. The lump has been joined by tears as I have heard lyrics describing burning car tires, rape, rpgs, voices in his head, warlords, poverty, prison, Satan and destruction of his home by the ravages of war. This is not the content of your typical American gangsta trying to prove his street cred. This is the pain of a real life in the War Zone surviving any way you can until you can be rescued.
Good for all of us, the album The Dusty Foot Philosopher is now available in the US, via Amazon or iTunes. Highlights include "In the Beginning (used in a few movies)," "If Rap Gets Jealous," "Soobax," and "What's Hardcore?" with lyrics like these;
it's HARD, harder than Harlem and Compton intertwined,
harder than harboring Bin Laden and rewind,
"to that earlier part when I was kinda like"
we begin our day by the way of the gun,
rocket propelled grenades blow you away if you front,
we got no police ambulances or fire fighters,
we start riots by burning car tires,
they looting, and everybody starting shooting...
So what's hardcore? Really, are you hardcore?Hmm.
Not for the faint at heart that do not want their truth painfully real. You can sample some music and video here or on his myspace page. Read a little about him on his wiki page.
here is the video for Soobax
this is a homemade video by somebody for What's Hardcore (not much to it- but you can hear its powerful lyrics)
here are links to youtube to hear Dusty Foot Philosopher, the beautiful In the Beginning with its message of hope in the face of war and powerlessness, Rap Gets Jealous (explicit content) I could go on. After listening to this album a few hundred times, it has not gotten old. If you care about good music, Africa, victims of war or reality, follow the advice of George Michael and listen without prejudice to this album.