K’Naan Interview

June 15, 2007 at 10:12 pm | Posted in Interviews | Leave a comment

by Kendra Desrosiers

In a world focused on the happenings of the middle east and super powers, few are truly aware of the issues affecting third world countries globally, particularly in the African nation of Somalia. While it is evident that the conditions of the inner cities in America are deplorable, when examining Somalia, they pale in comparison. Like many artists in East Africa, Somalis artist K’Naan has devoted much of his music career to spreading awareness and sharing his experiences of living in the harsh conditions of a war torn country lacking a central government. While his music focuses on socioeconomic and clan conflicts in Somalia, K’Naan stresses that his music is by no means political, he’s just calling it how he sees it.
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The Source.com: What have you been working on?

K’Naaan: Well, just been working on music. Been working on um, well, two things really because I have an album which is already recorded and released in some parts of the world and that we will release in the U.S. but aside from that still working on new music.

TheSource.com: How’s the tour been going so far?

K’Naan: It’s been incredible… Just playing to full houses, sold out houses every night…it’s been amazing

TheSource.com: What made you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in music?

K’Naan: Um it wasn’t really that sort of a thing, it wasn’t really a conscious decision where you say this is what I’m going to do. It was just something that you know had to be done in increments at some time I was writing some ideas then I was writing melodies then I was writing rhymes, it came like it had to be done and at some point it was as a career but it wasn’t really a career to start out with it was just something that you did.

TheSource.com: What would you consider to be your big break into music?

K’Naan: Um well it’s really just really recognition from my peers other artists have embraced me before I think even the public really and then uh that was kind of a significant moment in my life when some of my heroes were also looking at me and sayin that they were inspired by what I’m doing…
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TheSource.com: Who would you say are your idols and music influences?

K’Naan: I don’t have idols but I do have influences and um everything from Talib Kweli, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan to Nas are strong influences.

TheSource.com: How would you describe your sound?

K’Naan: Um, it’s real difficult really to describe it, it’s something that has to be seen but it’s really an artist mix of tradition and its artist kind of articulation of my own life and you know and my past experiences. I spent half my life in Africa and the other half in North America, the sound that I made is not like what is often made so its really difficult to explain but it is its own thing.

TheSource.com: A lot of the times you are referred to as a spoken word artist or a rap artist, do you feel there’s a big distinction between spoken word poetry and rap?

K’Naan: I don’t really know that I can say that I’m a spoken word artist. For me really because of all of the elements that come together in my music that obviously have lyrics being a part of it it’s hard to really think that it’s just one thing, it’s not just rap, it can be called spoken word, it’s not just singing…I don’t really know that it’s just one element of something.

TheSource.com: How have your experiences in Somalia affected your music?

K’Naan: Well it informed it in a huge way as it did. Just like it informed my own life, the way I live my life. Really my music is a product of my developed personality and my developed personality comes from some of my strong experiences in Somalia whether it was the peaceful era or times of war when you experience something like that it really does change your outlook on life and it should if you’re an a honest writer, it should change your music.

TheSource.com: You discuss issues in Africa a lot, what are the main reasons for these issues in Somalia and what problems are of greatest concern?

K’Naan:  Well Somalia has been at war and been instable and without government for 17 years now. Just imagine a place that doesn’t have a central government, that doesn’t have no…there isn’t a police force no ambulance to help you out if something has happened. The problem is that grand and you take your pick. A lot of everything is a problem right now in Somalia but politically it’s a deeply ingrained division which dates back centuries but its from a clan conflict. Different clans fighting for different historical reasons but you know it’s a real big problem it’s a grand problem. And really just kind of why I write my music is partly because of these things that continues to affect us.

TheSouce.com: In your song “What’s Hardcore” you criticize American gangster rappers on their perception of hardcore, what do you feel is truly hardcore?

K’Naan: Well um hardcore is really circumstance based. You know real tough times I’m talking I’m not talking about when you have I mean I respect everyone’s struggle. I have lived in the ghettos of America I know that there’s some struggle. [What I mean] in that song is that the enormity of the issues that we deal with and that is really different from hardcore here.

TheSource.com: Do you think Americans take their lives for granted?

K’Naan: Um really not [necessarily] their lives but perhaps maybe their time and kind of the element of appreciation is not something you can easily get and [you] can get appreciation form loss so we know what its like to lose people in a grand scale and therefore we appreciate things a lot more.

TheSource.com: Do you feel American media ignores the issues of African countries and other third world countries?

K’Naan: I think they are very selective of how they choose problems to cover if they ever really cover these problems when they do they’re selective. A lot of the times they make the things so bleak that people feel there isn’t a possibility for change and that it self is what contributes to the problem.

TheSource.com: Would you say your goal is to spread awareness similar to say Wyclef of the Fugees?

K’Naan: Well you know Wyclef comes form Haiti and obviously he spends a lot of time doing that, kind of shedding some light on the issues there yea of course I do something similar about my country but I also go a step further because I write about it and that struggle. Everything I do in my career is dedicated to that struggle but also its and not something that segregates people its kind of when you hear the music you get a sense that its a universal struggle.

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TheSource.com: Wyclef has recently gotten involved in the politics and economics of Haiti do you plan to do something similar in Somalia?

K’Naan: I have been sort of considered widely by Somalis in Somalia and Somalis abroad as someone who has been instrumental in bringing attention to that region but really I’m no politician and I wouldn’t consider being a part of politics I think that a lot more can be done when you influence culture than when you influence politics.

TheSource.com: How has is been working with artists like M1 and Mos Def?

K’Naan: Its great those are friends of mine and they are people who have embraced me before I had met them these are people who had put my music on to their music. I like working with people of like minds. I feel at home with all those guys.

TheSource.com: What is the biggest misconception people have of you?

K’Naan: Of me? [laughs] That I am always overtly political or something of that nature. I don’t really consider myself a political person. And people are shocked by that statement because people say well you know he make politically charged music I don’t really think so I think I make artist music and the state of the world is if you call it like it is you’re being political.

TheSource.com: If you could collaborate with anyone who would it be?

K’Naan: To be honest I’m not really huge on collaborations. I like working with the artists that I have already worked with are some of my favorite artists. I guess there’s a rare few that I’d like to work with I actually like Lil’ Wayne a lot. He’s got you know besides having some sincerely ridiculous lyrics I think he’s got a kind of energy with how he presents his thing which I like. There are people like him or some older rock artists or something.

TheSource.com: What can we expect from you in the future?

K’Naan: more music, more touring. Just to continue what I feel is missing in Hip Hop right now and yea we’re coming with it.


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