K’NAAN / “K’naan Mixtape”
“T.I.A.” This is Africa. Yaknow, the root of rap, where rapping over a drum beat started. But not just ancient, long-ago, romanticized Africa. But some of that bad Blackhawk’s falling down dragged through the streets and bombs, and bombs, and guns, and more guns in the hands of youths and warlords and it’s so hard, for real, not no play movie pirates of the Caribbean but for real running up and down the longest coast in Africa. You know what I mean? T.I.A.! You heard me? I know when I first heard about K’naan I said to myself I want to hear this and then when I first heard the debut album I said it’s ok but it ain’t really knocking me down, so I filed it on the hard drive and moved on. And then earlier this year the barefoot philosopher dropped a new album but I didn’t track it down, even when a publicist from Giant Steps stepped to me and recommended that I check it out. Yeah, ok, I’ll get to it when I get to it… which might have been the 12th of never until I was looking for something else and ran across a notice that K’naan was doing a project with DJ J. Period. Now, check this: J. Period is what we used to call the uncut bomb. When it comes to making mixtapes he’s the alpha and the omega. I mean ain’t nobody else even close and if you need proof I say go to the J. Period website and get the two volume best of Lauryn Hill—it’s better than the Miseducation Of… No lie. Once you listen you will thank me and say, true that. And once you get over that get to the Q-Tip ish that J. Period put together. Born February 12, 1975 in Los Angeles, Brooklyn-based J. Period is America’s premier mixtape producer. In 2008 he was commissioned to produce the soundtrack for Tony Hawk’s Motion (Nintendo DS). So, after tracking down the 3-track The Messengers EP, I was geeked up. Now this was something for real. The idea is that it’s a tribute Mixtape based on the music of Fela Kuti, Bob Marley and Bob Dylan. J. Period drops his deft mixing/remixing and K’naan raps over, through and around songs by the aforementioned trio. It’s a bomb-ass idea and, based on the preview tracks, J. Period and K’naan actually fulfill the potential. Do I need to tell you to get it? Go here for a free download. So once, I got into The Messengers EP, I then went digital fishing for more K’naan and also purchased the new album Troubadour. And the deeper I dropped the more there was to fathom. I said, whoa! The official releases are only an echo of what this cat is into. Check it, I’ve put together a mixtape that featured some remixes, and some fugitive tracks that are not on the official releases. Of course, I also got into his biography, which I’ll share below in a minute, but before that let me finish running down how this set got put together. At first, I was just going to go with The Messengers EP, and then as I ran across more tracks and remixes, I said maybe I’ll add two or three other tracks. But instead of turning around the boat and heading back to shore, I sailed into other waters and fished up more tracks include three or four live concert tapes, including a major concert in Toronto that was banging hard. And then I found a European release recorded at various stops of K’naan’s 2007 world tour including stops in London and New York. It's from the London-based Wrasse Records. It’s no big surprise that he was better live than in the studio, but I didn’t expect it to be as strong as it is, especially given that K’naan tours with a drummer, bass, keys, lead guitar and a hype man/vocalist. Rapping with a band. And it works, really works. And then I hooked a concert K’naan did earlier this year at the Kennedy Center in DC with a bunch of Somali homefolk in the audience. By then the sun been down for hours and I had to get back to preparing the material for uploading on BoL. There was no way to include everything but what happened was, I decided to include two tracks from K’naan’s debut album and live versions of those two tracks from the live album just so you can hear how much my man has improved his music over a short two year period. So, ok, I had remixes and fugitive tracks (including a freestyle on a Chicago radio program), and the three tracks from The Messengers EP, and a thirty-minute segment from the Toronto concert that featured live versions of tracks from Troubadour. So what started out as a three-track cameo is now a full-blown special mixtape made up of material that is not commercially available. This one is a BoL special. By drawing on an ancient tradition, K'naan is helping to renew rap.
Do you see why it's amazin' When someone comes out of such a dire situation? And learns the English language just to share his observation Probably get a Grammy without a grammar education So 'fuck you' school and 'fuck you' immigration And all of you who thought I wouldn't amount to constipation And now I'm here without the slightest fear or reservation The love me in the slums and in the native reservations... A lot of mainstream niggas is yappin' about yappin' A lot of underground niggas is rappin' about rappin' I just want to tell you what's really crack-a-lackin' Before came down, this is what happened.That's nice. As he alludes to himself, it's getting harder and harder to find rap music about something other than itself. One thing I can say about K'Naan is he has actual subject matter. His words mean something to him. Maybe you can get with it, maybe you can't, but either way, there's something in there. He's not just yappin' for the sake of it. —Mtume ya Salaam P.S. But about that 'freestyle.' All I can say is, "Yeah, right." Those lines were way too complicated with not even a single hesitation or 'uh' to be heard. That was straight written. I'm not complaining. The lyrics were tight, but definitely not off the top of the head the way they were claiming it was.
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