Thursday, May 29, 2008

Real Hardcore Rap from Africa, part 1 (K'Naan)

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.


tom joad said...

A couple of years ago, I went to see Mos Def and Talib Kweli. K'Naan opened up for them. I had never heard anything from him or about him. at the time. Rarely, if ever, do I have a good experience with songs I have never heard (you know, hard to make out lyrics, adjusting to a different musical style, etc.) But for some reason, I became completely enthralled with his clear vocals and lyrics, and more so with the beating of the percussion that hung around their necks. At one point, I remember having tears in my eyes (which could have been because of the excruciatingly loud volume), but I recall it being because of the revolution that was being thrust upon us in this small, tight venue. All in all, that is how I came to know K'Naan - and there is no doubt that he completely stole the show that night.

He is working on a new album, apparently, in Jamaica, and is touring some festivals around the US this summer. I will be there to see him at Bonnaroo.

As much as I dig his album - seeing his show is a whole 'nother experience.

do it.

eyedias said...

this guy is really promising, I first saw him on 4real on the cw and I did some research on him. I don't think people appreciate his music enough to buy buy which is really sad cuz i feel like he is a legend in the making.. 4 real