Okayafrica sat down with Somalia’s troubadour K’naan to speak about transnational identities, the after-effects of having the most popular song in the world, and his new More Beautiful Than Silence EP.
I read that you grew up looking up to rappers like Nas, how did you come to get him on the new EP?
I’m definitely a huge fan of Nas. He was kind of one of the epic idols to me. He still is. He’s one of the greatest of all time to me. Not only as far as rap goes, but as far as art goes. Our relationship started out of the Distant Relatives project with Damian Marley. Damian and I had been around each other heavily during the Troubadour album that I was making. He really liked some of the Ethiopian and jazz sample ideas I was using. So some of those records that you hear with him and Nas have some of those samples also. Damian is a real close friend of mine and called me when him and Nas were getting in. He asked if I wanted to do a couple of joints and be a part of it. And, in fact, “Africa Must Wake Up” is really an old Damian and K’naan song that never came out and we ended up putting on the Distant Relatives album.
You and Nas linked back up for “Nothing To Lose.”
Yeah, I was working finishing up the album in New York. Nas and I had been talking over the past year trying to do something, trying to get in. And I actually got a text message from him just asking what was up and what I was doing these days. I tell him about the project and said, ‘matter of fact, there’s a song I’m working on right now that I want you to be a part of. He said, you know I’m in. So I hit him and he came through the studio and we just vibed and wrote the song.