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K'naan

Biography

Um, 50 Cent thinks he had it hard? Toronto's K'naan has news for American rappers: Africans have it harder. K'naan Warsame was born in Somalia in 1978, and as a kid he watched his country collapse into civil war around him. (Somalia is currently the only country in the world without a government.) Warsame's father had moved to New York City a few years before the war began; Warsame and his mother got some of the last visas the U.S. embassy issued and took the last commercial flight out of the country. The family relocated to Toronto, where there was a strong Somali community, and K'naan began to learn English and adopt rap -- as so many have -- as a third language. In 1999, K'naan was invited to perform before the U.N.'s High Commissioner for Refugees, where he recited a piece that criticized the U.N. for its failures in Somalia. He became an instant celebrity: Youssou N'Dour invited him to Senegal to tour and record, and Nelly Furtado's production team Track and Field helped produce his debut album. Flexing a high-pitched voice, a strong melodic sense and whiplash wit, K'naan's 2005 debut, The Dusty Foot Philosopher, won him a Juno Award in 2006.
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