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Aesthetics

Humanity & Appreciation – K’naan

         What is art really? During our philosophy class, based on are discussion, there are many opinions about what is considered good “art,” whereas some of us believe its just a piece of work that gives us satisfaction when viewing it, having no specific point behind it, while some of us believe every kind of art has some kind of initial meaning behind it, or perhaps a message, made with an intention in mind. Art gives us a way to be creative and express ourselves. In other words, art is something that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing to our eyes. Although it lacks a satisfactory definition, it is easier to describe it as “the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others”

One piece of art that is significantly meaningful to me, is the song “take a minute” by K’naan. K’naan declares in “Take A Minute,” the importance of humanity, patience, and quiet strength, in which places K’naan within a humane tradition, familial, communal, and artistic perspective:

And any man who knows a thing knows
He knows not a damn, damn thing at all
And every time I felt the hurt
And I felt the givin’ gettin’ me up off the wall

I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze

How did Mandela get the will to surpass the everyday
When injustice had him caged and trapped in every way?
How did Gandhi ever withstand the hunger strikes and all?
Didn’t do it to gain power or money if I recall

It’s to give, I guess, I’ll pass it on
Mother thinks it’ll lift the stress of Babylon
Mother knows, my mother she suffered blows
I don’t know how we survived such violent episodes

I was so worried and hurt to see you bleed
But as soon as you came out the hospital you gave me sweets
Yeah, they try to take you from me
But you still only gave ’em some prayers and sympathy

Dear mama, you helped me write this
By showing me to give is priceless

And any man who knows a thing knows
He knows not a damn, damn thing at all
And every time I felt the hurt
And I felt the givin’ gettin’ me up off the wall

I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze

All I can say is the worst is over now
We can serve the hard times, divorce, it’s over now
They try to keep us out but they doors is open now
My nigga, Akon is gettin’ awards and covers now

Comin’ out of Mogadishu and still draped in the mess
And no matter how we strong, homie
It ain’t easy comin’ out of where we from, homie

And that’s the reason why, I could never play for me
Tell ’em the truth is what my dead homies told me
Ooh yeah, I take inspiration from the most heinous of situations
Creating medication out my own tribulations

Dear Africa, you helped me write this
By showing me to give is priceless

And any man who knows a thing knows
He knows not a damn, damn thing at all
And every time I felt the hurt
And I felt the givin’ gettin’ me up off the wall

I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze

Nothing is perfect man, that’s what the world is
All I know is I’m enjoying today
You know ’cause it isn’t every day that you get to give

And any man who knows a thing knows
He knows not a damn, damn thing at all
And every time I felt the hurt
And I felt the givin’ gettin’ me up off the wall

I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze

I got nothin’ to complain about
You know where I’m from
You know where I’ma last, so
You know I was flyin’ high

I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride
I’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze

The song take a minute by K’naan, embraces several messages as the lyrics go on.His overall message states that one should appreciate life with regards that we are granted with a lot, therefore, we should appreciate all we are given in our lives as he says “Nothin’ is perfect man, that’s what the world is”

He also states that we should give to those less fortunate, always keeping in mind that no matter what we may be facing in life, someone is always going through worse, and needs help “How did Gandhi ever withstand the hunger strikes and all / Didn’t do it to gain power or money if I recall / It’s to give; I guess I’ll pass it on” and “But you still only gave ’em some prayers and sympathy / Dear mama, you helped me write this, by showing me to give is priceless”

Furthermore, as his lyrics display, he says to slow down and enjoy each day of our lives for what it is worth “And every time I felt the hurt and I felt the givin’ gettin’ me up off the wall / I’m just gonna take a minute and let it ride, i’m just gonna take a minute and let it breeze”

History’s influence on his music

K’naan is a poet, rapper, singer, song writer and an instrumentalist who is highly famous for his rap, currently singing for Hollywood records. Born in Somalia, he spent his childhood in Mogadishu living there until the start of the Somali Civil War, which began in 1991. When he was 13, K’naan and his mother, along with his three siblings, left their homelands settling in New York City for a brief amount of time then moved to Canada in Rexdale Toronto, which was a large Somali community. As he began improving in speaking English, he began rapping, and travelled around North America, performing constantly. He was given the opportunity to perform at the United Nations 50th anniversary concert in 1999, held in Geneva, where he used his platform to publicly criticize the United Nations handling of the Somali crisis in the 1990s.

K’naans music embraces the big picture of appreciation and realization. Growing up with the Somaili Civil War occurring, it influenced him a lot, as he expresses it in his music. Most of his songs encompass a similar message of appreciation, with the realization that many individuals around the world are going through many struggles each and every day, therefore we must always keep in mind how much we are granted with.
K’naan demonstrates a melodious grasp of rap, and connects to various parts of the African disaspora. His music reflects an international perspective, where he talks about life, family, and love, and about the morality he learned at home as well as Nelson Mandela and Gandhi.

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Discussion

4 thoughts on “Humanity & Appreciation – K’naan

  1. Possible my favourite artist and certainly one of my favourite songs, good choice! I love how so many of K’naan’s songs seem so…deep, while he still manages to imbue rap with a musicality and, I suppose you could say, profound subject matter that isn’t found in most rap music.

    My question, though, is how do you think the song itself(that is, the musical elements) serve to compliment the lyrics, and vice-versa? Is there something in the way the song is laid out – its melody, its rhythm, its structure – that particularly suits and adds to K’naan’s message?

    Posted by liamthesaint | January 16, 2013, 5:53 am
  2. Thank you Liam!
    Well generally speaking, K’naan has said that he is influenced by Somali music and the traditional instruments of Somali, therefore that does structure his music. He has a mix of tradition in his music, with a mix of our modern “pop” culture. Even though he is considered generally a rapper, I wouldn’t necessarily say its rap, but music with an “urgent message” .Although we define the song with components of rap, he puts it in more calm tone, and rhythm whereas its more of” talking” as opposed to “rapping” He avoids gangster rap, clichés and posturing.

    Posted by yasmeenmezban | January 16, 2013, 10:11 pm
    • I find it really interesting that you say that, actually. That he is one of the only artists within his genre who support different, ‘positive’ moral themes in his music. In addition to this, he is truly unique in the way that he presents his music. What I would ask is this: do you think that his uniqueness is what captures the viewers attention? Is it what makes him, and his message famous?

      I have to question this often with art – the trailblazer does well, until it becomes a regularity within that medium of art. Let’s say that several rappers started copying K’naan’s music style – and the topics that he pursues. Would he still be as popular as he is today? Or do you believe that his individual, unparalleled style was the only thing that made him a good artist?

      Of course, after listening to his music, you’ll say he’ll be good either way. But in a general sense, its something to consider, when deciding the value of an artist (in any medium) and their work.

      Oh, and great post, by the way!

      Posted by JonathanToews | January 17, 2013, 5:09 am
      • Thank you Jonathan!

        Yes, K’naan is truly unique in the way that he presents his music, and the messages that he portrays in his music is what makes it so beautiful and engaging to me at least, and definitely to many listeners who are a fan of his music. What catches my attention so much about his music is that it isn’t the general mainstream music we always hear, but music with a realistic and positive aspect that shows appreciation, as opposed to typical songs that carry meaningless lyrics.

        I definitely think he would still be as popular as he is today regardless, considering he’s the one who originally enhanced the style of music into Hollywood. His style of music, defines both him, and his messages he tries to show in his music, therefore I believe that’s what makes him the amazing artist he is today.

        Posted by yasmeenmezban | January 17, 2013, 6:51 pm

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