K'Naan was born in Somalia and lived there during the Somali Civil War, which started in 1991. Shortly after the war broke out, K'Naan moved to with his mother and three siblings to New York City, where they briefly joined family members who had previously fled the country. K'Naan and his family then relocated to Toronto, Canada, where he began his career as a rapper.
K'Naan's aunt Magool was a very famous singer in Somalia. She sang patriotic songs in the '70s but went into self-imposed exile after singing Islamic songs that criticized Somalia's then-ruling military government. In 1987, Magool returned to the stage and performed in front of 15,000 people, marking the largest concert in Somali history. Unfortunately, Magool died of breast cancer in 2004.
In 2010, K'Naan's song "Wavin' Flag
" was chosen by Coca-Cola to be their official theme song of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. K'Naan also performed the song as part of the company's FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour, which took him to 86 different countries around the world. "Wavin' Flag" became a #1 hit in several of those countries, including Mexico, Austria, China, Germany, and Switzerland.
On September 21, 2010, K'Naan was scheduled to perform at a benefit concert for girls' education in Ghana at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC but cancelled at the last minute. The rapper called organizers at 11pm to ditch the gig, claiming that the organizers were unprofessional that he wasn't being paid his full $40,000 performance fee. K'Naan later elaborated on Twitter that he had only been paid $18,000 of the $40,000 he was owed and that the sound, stage, and logistics provided to him were not up to par.
K'Naan is a dedicated Muslim. He committed the entire Koran to memory by age 11 but states: "I jokingly say to friends sometimes, 'I wish I did drugs', because they seem so chilled!"
In 2010, Jay-Z attended one of K'Naan's concerts. The Brooklyn rapper later emailed K'Naan to congratulate him on a successful career based around "Wavin' Flag," writing "Congratulations, you just made an anthem for a generation."
In 2006, K'Naan won the Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year for his 2005 album The Dusty Foot Philosopher. The album also won him the newcomer of the year title at the BBC Awards for World Music. Since finding success, K'Naan has collaborated with Malian duo Amadou and Mariam, British rock band Keane, and childhood hero Nas.