Jun 29, 2008 - 9:51 PM
After winning numerous awards and touring with hip-hop notables such as Mos Def and Damian Marley, acclaimed Somali emcee K’Naan finally releases his debut, The Dusty Foot Philosopher, to a U.S. audience. Don’t feel too shafted. The newly titled Deluxe Version comes with bonus material, including a cameo from Dead Prez’s M-1.
To call the album eclectic is an understatement. It’s hip-hop meets world meets folk meets R&B with a dollop of rock and jazz thrown in for good measure. Not to mention K’Naan bends the concept of what are considered musical instruments. The opening track, “Wash it Down,” is comprised entirely of a beat made by water. That’s right, water and not some cheesy serenity fountain trickle either. We’re talking splashing, crashing, choppy water.
Rapping in English and Somali, K’Naan tackles everything from Mogadishu’s armed struggle to poseurs and his own insecurities. On “What’s Hardcore” he juxtaposes U.S ghettos and “gangsta” rappers with the real life warfare of Africa’s slums. “If I rhyme about home and got descriptive, I’d make 50 Cent look like Limp Bizkit,” K’Naan quips. It’s true. Before his family fled to Canada when he was a teen, K’Naan was living in a Somali district known as “the river of blood.” Life was harsh. By his 20s he’d already been a refugee, served time in prison and survived a war.
Despite the serious subject matter, The Dusty Foot Philosopher doesn’t come off as depressing. K’Naan’s got jokes. When not lamenting about Somalia’s corrupt regime, he’s poking fun at fellow Toronto emcee K-os and Dylan from Diddy’s Making the Band. The album’s title track and “Soobax” aren’t club hits but their crafty, percussion heavy rhythm sections are enough to make any stiff bust a move.
The Dusty Foot Philosopher certifies K’Naan as an adept storyteller. His vivid verses paint portraits of lost innocence, hard lessons learned, and an unwavering hope for the future.
Kimberly Turner is Oh Dang! Magazine's resident music critic and pastry fiend. And No, she's not fat.