Keinan Abdi Warsame, famously known as K’Naan (traveler in Somali) is a Somali-born Canadian hip-hop artist of the early 21st century. He grew up in Mogadishu, a city in Somalia where he was surrounded by an artistic family – his grandfather a poet and his aunt a popular singer. K’Naan grew up listening to the hip-hop records sent to him from America by his father, who had left Somalia earlier.When he was 13, he, his mother, and two siblings left their homeland and joined their relatives in Harlem fleeing the civil war that broke out in 1991. They stayed briefly in Harlem before moving to Rexdale, Ontario. K’Naan had originally began teaching himself english by phonetically imitating the rap songs he admired in Somalia. As soon as he got to Canada, his English started improving and he began writing songs that helped him process the turmoil he experienced in Somalia. He began rapping around this time as well. In tenth grade he dropped out of school and traveled around North America for two years, performing occasionally. Since then he has become fairly popular among Africans and those in the diaspora.
K’Naan’s discography is generally commended due to his continual representation of Somali and Africa as a whole. He seeks to show his listeners that he credits his motherland for the man he became. As well as representing Africa, he still shows the American culture that helped develop his character. At times, he represents both in one song showing how both environments simultaneously made an impact on him.
In his song “Take A Minute”, he touches on the violence that was happening before him and his family left Somali. He speaks on the unfortunate events that occur to most and wonders how they all endured the pain and anger. He reflects on everything he has been through especially during the civil war in Somalia: “My momma she suffered blows, I dont know how we survived these violent episodes…they tried to take you from me but you only gave them prayers and sympathy.” In these examples, he reminds the listener to not be so high-strung, anxious or angry. They should take a moment and let things that are happening, happen.
While being a voice for those who are going through similar situations, K’Naan represents both environments he grew up in. His Somali background is represented through the words he speaks on the violence he endured when living there. He also speaks on how his African background has helped understand and make sense out of the challenges he has faced. He says in the song “Africa you helped write this by showing me to give is priceless”.
His American/Canadian culture is showed in the music video where men who represent hip-hop culture in America with snapbacks, and sagged pants join him in the video. These men, some smoking others drinking and walking with a bounce represent the patriarchal image of hip-hop in America.
Both images of the different environments are represented in one song showing listeners that one can love and credit both at the same time. Both cultures created the K’Naan we know and he chooses to reflect that in most of his music because to him both are his norm and his home.