lyricist Knaan is far left of the normal gangster, hipster, or baller acts
that rip the air waves today. His anti-norm noise
contains worldly sounds of reggae, rock, and Hip-Hop which
lay background to lyrics of struggle, spiritually and empowerment.
Without being anymore obvious, Knaan simply cannot be compared to the musical
efforts of the mass amounts of self contained artists sprawled across the
Knaan gained his first breath of wax on the
afro-beat compilation Building Bridges
and since has propelled into a solo calling as the voice of the struggle seen
in distant places that most Americans fears to think about. His debut, The Dusty Foot Philosopher, was an
extreme success, winning awards and accolades validating himself as an artist
and a musician, and more importantly, as a voice of the unheard.
Now four years since
his dusty debut, Knaan has decided to release the
beast in the form of his sophomore effort Troubadour.
The LP has already acclaimed success in frontiers spanning above and beyond
Hip-Hop and is another example of the thoughts, stories, and rhymes that dwell
within the soft spoken wordsmith.
AllHipHop.com: So many artists claim that they are different from
the norm, some rightfully so, but the sound of Troubadour cannot be denied as being unique and diverse Do you
agree that its a sound of its own?
Knaan: Yeah, I feel like its a sound of its
own. And so I want it to be recognized as such. That its a standard on its sound;
its not trying to mimic something. Its creating something, so thats kind of
how I see it. With no ego attached, I feel like thats what it is. It just
happens though, thats the thing. I only realize after listening to the whole
thing, that its doing those things. But its just my instinct that works like
that. Ill be in the studio with another artist and we may be collaborating or
just thinking about a song and then well play some chords and the way that I
might do, the way I might accent a thing or do the time signature of the drum
pattern or think of certain melody or the chord progression, all the artists I
meet always say, Thats different, I would never think of it that way.
do you think you acquired that musical talent?
Knaan: I think from growing up in a whole
other culture and also really being musically wide open, listening to different
kinds of music and traveling. And having a real sensibility, a lyrical
sensibility, street sensibility, but then being able to transfer that to the
really do bring your experiences of the world to your music, most artists in
Hip-Hop do not take these experiences and bring them to their music, and they
stay one dimensional.
Knaan: Yeah! And thats weird to me because
if you have the opportunity to do that, see the world, how could you not bring
something back for the people that you come from. Its kind of selfish.
against artists who do not do so, but its almost like cheating their fans out
of a new knowledge and experience through the words.
Knaan: Yeah, you are right. They do travel
the world, these artists have been everywhere, some
have even heard orchestras from the Czech Republic. How could that not be
interesting at some point? I just think we all have equal opportunity in that
we hear it while we travel as musicians and artists. But giving credit where
credit is due, some of these artists focus is expressing the moment in time and
where theyre at. So thats where theyre at and they feel they need to talk
about that. So thats cool, but for me Im interested just as well on where
title, Troubadour, means a traveling
poet. Why do you feel that these world issues that you talk about are so
important for people to hear especially when were in an America where
everything is focused on our
problems, our economic troubles, our woes.
Knaan: Its kind of strange in that people
still dont realize that those are not separate things. That
the [worlds] issues are your economic crisis; its really the same thing and
its one thing. And when you travel you get to really see that its one
thing, that the cause and effect is not state wide, cause and effect is global.
Honestly man, from knowing my music, you know that I dont preach nothing. Its
just there; if we dont talk about it its actually true to say that were
making an effort to ignore it. Its not making an effort to say it, because
its there. Its making an effort to ignore it.
AllHipHop.com: Youve always stated that that music has not
changed since your debut, but as an artist how have you evolved since you first
penned The Dusty Foot Philosopher?
Knaan: I grew as an artist, I grew musically.
A lot of the musical growth is something I put together on this album. But I
think that the most interesting place for me as far as growing as a lyricist
and an artist is that during The Dusty Foot Philosopher I cared to show
you and for you to know. In some subconscious way a lot of people cant hear it
in the music, I think I partly cared back then that you know Im good. Like, I
had lines on that album that are like, Oh s**t, thats dope. And I know it is
too, but I didnt really need to say that because I know its good. If you know
its good do you always have to show that its good too? So like for this album
I didnt do that, for this album I felt so grown about things that I stayed
away from ill lines and similes that I couldve put in there because Im
telling a story. This is good thats it, I dont need
to show you that it is.
I think it is grace because thats the kind of artist I love. Bob
Marley wasnt trying to show you nothing. Even literature, when I read books,
for example theres a girl named Zadie Smith and she has a book named White
Teeth and shes brilliant. I remember reading this book and thinking, Wow,
shes a genius. Her similes are incredible, its amazing. At some point I was
like, Ah, I get what youre doing. Youre showing me: one too many similes,
one too many good lines, one too many flexing of this thing. Its like well,
you dont need to show me anything as an artist you just need to reveal a
world, not show me how good you are at revealing the world.
AllHipHop.com: Do you feel that your songs have appropriately
revealed your world in Somalia and your struggles of your past?
try, and I know songs that I have constructed out of real personal scenarios,
which otherwise I couldnt have a conversation about. It would not have been
physically possible for me to sit down with my friends and recount those things
without completely falling into serious depression. I made rhymes out of them
and kids sing along and Im watching them sing it and at some point its just
AllHipHop.com: How do you handle putting out your story especially
when like you said, it becomes just a song?
thats an interesting question. The truth is that my story is a country
disguised as a person. So in that sense its all personal
but at the same time its all universal because my story speaks to millions of
people. I feel comfortable because its bringing to life something necessary
for an entire people. Im just kind of like the prototype story, like the norm
for them, the strange for everybody else. And thats why thats okay for me.
AllHipHop.com: Critics of your music always try to compare your
sound because they simply cannot display your music alone. Instead of being
infused between this artist and that artist, what do you feel you should be
good question. An artist; possibly someone who is in their
personal life rebellious, and maybe that leads over to the music. Someone who is truly interested in contributing something genuine
to the world of music. Thats it. I dont think of myself as any other man.
All the other things they bring up to make sense of my music and who I am and
all of that are complements, everything from Eminem to Bob Marley (laughs), it
spans massively. But Im really just Knaan, and Im trying to get songs off of