K'naan, born K'naan Warsame in Mogadishu, Somolia, emigrated to the U.S. in 1991 on the last commercial flight out of his civil-war-torn home. For others, arriving in New York during the early '90s would have made an excellent introduction to a seminal era in rap history, but K'naan already knew how to rap. Listening to CDs sent by to him in Somalia from Stateside members of his family, he learned to imitate New York rap verses and rhythms before he understood a word of English or stepped out of East Africa. Fittingly, his music is informed by a life split between North America and Africa, occasionally taking stylistic cues from Mos Def or Lil Wayne, along with dropping some lyrics in Somali. The Dusty Foot Philosopher, to be released in the U.S. on June 24, features tracks like "What's Hardcore," which offers the violent reality of Somalia as a comparison to the hyperbolic gangster image in American hip-hop. This track, "Struggling," is a melancholy but articulate coming-of-age gem. Wyatt Williams
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