K'naan drops the Science and the Beats at the NXNE Fest

12 Jun 2005

As I walked into the steamy basement of the Drake Hotel in funky Parkdale, I wasn't sure what to expect from an artist that I had heard so much about but still had yet to see in action. The room was jam-packed with NXNE enthusiasts. All being mesmerized by the dope flow of that Somali-born high school drop-out whose come a long way.

Armed with his drum, he filled the room with the sounds of his homeland -- ingeniously infused with the hip hop rhythms he grew up listening to. I couldn't help but bop my head and join the rest of the crowd in his rapture.

He occasionally stops the music and goes a cappella for the avowed purpose of forcing the audience to hear his message loud and clear. Sounding like a street poet, he lashes out at the sorry state of hip hop today. "Think of real hip hop as the wife that couldn't bear children" he says. Does anyone need any explanation? Anyone who's old enough, or conscious enough, to recall the roots of hip hop must ask themselves what when wrong. Well, to K'naan, it's quite clear. The art-form has become the prisonner of cash-hungry record executives who have little appreciation for what's real.

Adding fuel to the fire, he quips: "I can make 50 cent look like Limp Bizkit". So is K''naan saying that he can outgun 'fiddy in a back-alley shootout? No. As he recounts the tales of his childhood in Somalia, through his introspective lyrics, he reminds us that 'fiddy won't know "ghetto" until he lingers through his poverty-stricken streets of Somalia. He tells us about the tin roof of his birth home and the scars of living in the shadows of desperation.

From there, K'naan turns his attention to the international community's favourite gangsta, George W. Bush. "How can they go to war with terror when it's war that's terrorizing!" Daammmn! Drop the poetic science man!

If you haven't seen K'naan live yet, make it a duty to do so when you get the chance. Check out AfroToronto.com for our upcoming interview with him.

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