The 411 initiative for Change: Case Study: K’Naan

“He grew up in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, which was torn apart by warlords when K’Naan was 10. “It was like a fire coming into your house,” he says, “and you not having a place to exit. You were certain you were going to die, ’cause everyone else was [dying]. I imagined I would not be fortunate enough to live, let alone escape Somalia, so we were just running around careless and wild in the streets.””

“When his family resettled in Harlem, K’Naan was amazed by its size but unfazed by its violence. He recalls, “One day, we were eating dinner … outside of our window, there was a gunshot. My uncle ducked, and me and my brother didn’t flinch. My uncle was like, ‘You see the guns here’ You have to be careful.’ And my brother said, ‘What’ That was popcorn.’ Because in Mogadishu, handguns aren’t considered dangerous. You have to shoot something heavy: AK-47s or RPGs (rocket propelled grenades)….””

“K’Naan has spent a lifetime cheating death. You wouldn’t know it to see him — the 27-year-old hip-hopper is affable, soft-spoken and quick to laugh, and his biggest complaint is the cold Toronto winter. Listen to the stories he tells with his rhymes and a more harrowing picture emerges.

What’s Hardcore? by K’Naan

I put a pen to the paper,
this time as visual as possible,
guns blast at the hospital,
the walls are white washed with tin rooftops,
to show love you lick two shots,
it’s dangerous man,
journalists hire gunmen there’s violent women,
kids trust no one cause fire burnt them,
refugees die in boats, headed for peace,
is anyone scared of death here’ Not in the least,
I walk by the old lady selling coconuts under the tree,
life is cheap here but wisdom is free,
the beach boys hang on the side, leaning with pride,
scam artists and gangsters fiendin’ to fight,
I walk with three kids that can’t wait to meet God
lately, that’s Bucktooth, Mohamed and Crybaby,
what they do everyday just to eat lord have mercy,
strapped with an AK and they blood thirsty…

So what’s hardcore? Really, are you hardcore? Hmm.
So what’s hardcore? Really, are you hardcore? Hmm.

We begin our day by the way of the gun,
rocket propelled grenades blow you away if you front,
we got no police ambulance or fire fighters,
we start riots by burning car tires,
they looting, and everybody start shooting,
bullshit politicians talking bout solutions, but it’s all talk,
you can’t go half a block with a road block,
you don’t pay at the road block you get your throat shot,
and each road block is set up by these gangsters,
and different gangsters go by different standards,
for example, the evening is a no go,
unless you wanna wear a bullet like a logo,
in the day you should never take the alleyway,
the only thing that validates you is the AK,
they chew on Jad it’s sorta like coco leafs,
and there ain’t no police…

So what’s hardcore? Really, are you hardcore? Hmm.
So what’s hardcore? Really, are you hardcore? Hmm.

I’m a spit these verses cause I feel annoyed,
and I’m not gonna quit till I fill the void,
if I rhyme about home and got descriptive,
I’d make Fifty Cent look like Limp Biskit,
it’s true, and don’t make me rhyme about you,
I’m from where the kids is addicted to glue,
get ready, he got a good grip on the machete,
make rappers say they do it for love like R-Kelly,
it’s HARD, harder than Harlem and Compton intertwined,
harder than harboring Bin Laden and rewind,
“to that earlier part when I was kinda like”
we begin our day by the way of the gun,
rocket propelled grenades blow you away if you front,
we got no police ambulances or fire fighters,
we start riots by burning car tires,
they looting, and everybody starting shooting…

So what’s hardcore? Really, are you hardcore? Hmm.
So what’s hardcore? Really, are you hardcore? Hmm.

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