Tag Archives: K’naan

American Tunes: “Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)”

[Editor’s Note: American Tunes is a series of posts dedicated to songs that address America’s social and political challenges. For more information on the series, click here.]

For the first few years of my writing this blog (from 2011 to 2014, to be exact), my 4th of July tradition involved posting a rework of the Night Before Christmas poem that talked about trying to find the perfect music to accompany Independence Day celebration, and why K’Naan’s “Wavin’ Flag” fit the bill so well. Here’s a snippet:

And then in the very last place I would look —
the perfectest verse with perfectest hook!
But this just can’t be — a song for the 4th
that’s sung by K’naan, our friend from the north?!?
That’s right — he’s Canadian! Somalian too,
his formative days spent in Mogadishu.
But being a foreigner shouldn’t detract
from the fact that his song “Wavin’ Flag” is jam packed
with the message we’re coming together to send:
That freedom and justice will win in the end.

The national atmosphere has changed dramatically since 2014, and I’m not sure I’d keep using the word “foreigner” in that context, given how bloated with vitriol the term has become, but I still believe that last bit, and believe it or not, K’Naan is still on my mind on the 4th, just for a different song.

The same friend who hosted the annual party described in that original edition of “‘Twis the Friday before the 4th of July” recently sent me “Immigrants (We Get The Job Done),” a track from The Hamilton Mixtape by K’naan featuring Residente, Riz MC & Snow Tha Product. It’s tone is dour in comparison to that of “Wavin’ Flag,” and it’s video has serious emotional stopping power. While I don’t think we should stop celebrating this country’s birth, it does feel like we could stand to mix in some additional reflection — on how we became a nation and how we treat each other now.

K’Naan — “Immigrants (We Get The Job Done)” [Spotify/iTunes]

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K’naan

K'naan

[Editor’s Note: What follows is a Night Before Christmas-inspired poem I originally posted three years ago in anticipation of July 4th, though I’ve edited a few lines and made some administrative updates. Happy 4th, everyone!]

‘Tis the Thursday before the 4th of July
and all through my street flags are set out to fly.
We’ve done all the prepping that patriots do,
with this year’s fiesta well within view.
The pig has been ordered, the smoker tracked down,
on loan from the frat guys who live across town.
That porker’s on ice at the butcher, but soon
will make up a feast that lasts all afternoon.
The kegs have been scouted, the charcoal is bought,
the buns, plates and cups all successfully sought.
We’ve even located a table for pong
(hey — just ’cause we’re thirty, that don’t make it wrong).
My team U.S.A. jersey’s hanging with care,
preparing to bare pasty arms and chest hair
with additional feelings of pride for our play
in the World Cup and things that Tim Howard could save.
But something’s amiss … what can it be?
I know that I made sure to R.S.V.P.
Got my camouflage hat and tri-color balloons…
OH SNAP! The music! We need us some tunes!
I need to crank up the Ameri-swag quick,
but where should I turn? Toby Keith is a dick,
and Miley is partying, but who can tell why?
(OK, I’m obsessed with that song, I can’t lie.)
There has to be music that rings pure and true
when I think of the spirit of red, white and blue.
So I scour my iTunes collection, bar none,
leaving no stone unturned, and no song unspun.
And then in the very last place I would look —
the perfectest verse with perfectest hook!
But this just can’t be — a song for the 4th
that’s sung by K’naan, our friend from the north?!?
That’s right — he’s Canadian! Somalian too,
his formative days spent in Mogadishu.
But being a foreigner shouldn’t detract
from the fact that his song “Wavin’ Flag” is jam packed
with the message we’re coming together to send:
That freedom and justice will win in the end.
So raise up your bottles and barbecue tongs
to this most unlikely but fitting of songs
and the two-hundred-thirty-ninth time we can say
“Suck it!” to England! It’s Independence Day!

K’naan — “Wavin’ Flag” [Spotify/iTunes]

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K’naan

K'naan

[Editor’s Note: What follows is a poem I originally posted two years ago in anticipation of July 4th, though I’ve added a few lines and made some administrative updates. Happy 4th, everyone!]

‘Tis the Wednesday before the 4th of July
and all through my street flags are set out to fly.
We’ve done all the prepping that patriots do,
with Ryan’s fiesta well within view.
The pig has been ordered, the smoker tracked down,
on loan from the frat guys who live across town.
That porker’s on ice at the butcher, but soon
will make up a feast that lasts all afternoon.
The kegs have been scouted, the charcoal is bought,
the buns, plates and cups all successfully sought.
We’ve even located a table for pong
(hey — just ’cause we’re thirty, it don’t make it wrong).
My team U.S.A. jersey’s hanging with care,
preparing to bare pasty arms and chest hair
with additional feelings of pride now that we’ve
convinced DOMA and Prop 8 to finally leave.
But something’s amiss … what can it be?
I know that I made sure to R.S.V.P.
Got my camouflage hat and tri-color balloons…
OH SNAP! The music! We need us some tunes!
I need to crank up the Ameri-swag quick,
but where should I turn? Toby Keith is a dick,
and Miley is partying, but who can tell why?
(OK, I’m obsessed with that song, I can’t lie.)
There has to be music that rings pure and true
when I think of the spirit of red, white and blue.
So I scour my iTunes collection, bar none,
leaving no stone unturned, and no song unspun.
And then in the very last place I would look —
the perfectest verse with perfectest hook!
But this just can’t be — a song for the 4th
that’s sung by K’naan, our friend from the north?!?
That’s right — he’s Canadian! Somalian too,
his formative days spent in Mogadishu.
But being a foreigner shouldn’t detract
from the fact that his song “Wavin’ Flag” is jam packed
with the message we’re coming together to send:
That freedom and justice will win in the end.
So raise up your bottles and barbecue tongs
to this most unlikely but fitting of songs
and the two-hundred-thirty-eighth time we can say
“Suck it!” to England! It’s Independence Day!

K’naan — “Wavin’ Flag” [Spotify/iTunes]

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5×5, Part 2: Collaborations

5x5, Part 2 - Collaborations

We already have songs covered, and doing favorite albums on Day 2 of a 5-part feature would be like Skynyrd playing “Sweet Home Alabama” at the beginning of the concert… so how’s about collaborations? Yeah? Let’s do it! Here are the 5 momentary musical marriages I enjoyed most in 2012.

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K’naan

[Editor’s Note: What follows is a poem I originally posted last year in anticipation of July 4th. I’ve changed a few lines and made some administrative updates here and there, so look out for those. As a bonus, I’ve also included the new Very Best collaboration with K’naan at the bottom. Have a very happy and safe 4th everyone!]

‘Tis the Tuesday before the 4th of July
and all through my street flags are set out to fly.
I’ve done all the prepping that patriots do,
my friend Ryan’s fiesta well within view …
The pig has been ordered, the smoker tracked down,
on loan from the frat guys who live across town.
That porker’s on ice at the butcher, but soon
will be part of a feast that lasts all afternoon.
A case waits with beers in their labels of grey
yearning to turn blue and jump in the fray,
and my team U.S.A. jersey’s hanging with care,
preparing to bare pasty arms and chest hair.
But something’s amiss … what can it be?
I know that I made sure to R.S.V.P.
Got my camouflage hat and tri-color balloons …
OH SNAP! It’s the music! We need us some tunes!
I need to crank up the Ameri-swag quick,
but where should I turn? Toby Keith is a dick,
and Miley is partying, but who can tell why?
(OK, I’m obsessed with that song, I can’t lie.)
There has to be music that rings pure and true
when I think of the spirit of red, white and blue.
So I scour my iTunes collection, bar none,
leaving no stone unturned, no tune unspun.
And then in the very last place I would look —
the perfectest verse with perfectest hook!
But this just can’t be — a song for the 4th
that’s sung by K’naan, our friend from the north?!?
That’s right — he’s Canadian! Somalian too,
his formative days spent in Mogadishu.
But being a foreigner shouldn’t detract
from the fact that his song “Wavin’ Flag” is jam packed
with the message we’re coming together to send:
That freedom and justice will win in the end.
So raise up your bottles and barbecue tongs
to this most unlikely but fitting of songs
and the two-hundred-thirty-seventh time we can say
“Suck it!” to England! It’s Independence Day!

K’naan — “Wavin’ Flag” [Spotify/iTunes]

The Very Best feat. K’naan — “We OK” [Soundcloud]

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Bob Dylan

Chimes of Freedom

Bob Dylan has written a lot of songs. More like a shit-ton of songs. As in, if he had a nickel for every song he wrote, he could pull a Scrooge McDuck and take a daily dip in his pool of nickels. What I’m trying to say is there are a lot of Bob Dylan tunes out there, and if someone tells you with a straight face they know every single one, it’s completely acceptable to give them this face in return. His catalog is a such big mountain to climb, and let’s be honest; the thought of listening to all of his albums back to back would make even the most fervent fanatic blink once or twice. There are just so many damn lyrics. Good lord. But his being so prolific is, of course, a gift, not a curse. You can keep discovering new reasons to love him, even if you’ve already heard hundreds of his songs, and that’s where covers become particularly handy. Hearing other musicians interpret Bob Dylan’s music is one of the best ways to visit the parts of his dark and brilliant brain you haven’t been to yet, and just last night my friend and musical sherpa Clay alerted me to an amazing cache of 76 such covers. Assembled to benefit Amnesty International and released less than a month ago, Chimes of Freedom: The Music of Bob Dylan offers takes on Dylan tunes by everyone under the sun, including Elvis Costello, K’naan, Adele, Bettye LaVette, Pete Townshend, Bad Religion… really the list goes on and on and on. It’s nuts. And [be sure to read this in your best and most disproportionately loud Billy Mays* voice] ALL 76 OF THESE SONGS CAN BE YOURS FOR THE LOW, LOW PRICE OF $19.99! Crazy, eh? So many thoughtful and revealing covers at roughly a quarter a pop AND a large chunk of the money goes to a charitable organization. Everyone wins! Hell, you may even be able to write off the purchase on your taxes (I have no idea if this is true. It’s probably not. You Hear That Financial Services, L.L.C. isn’t exactly street legal, and may or may not, in fact, exist). I’m still making my way through the whole collection, but check out two of my favorites so far, — My Morning Jacket doing “You’re A Big Girl Now” and Raphael Saadiq doing “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat.” Hey, did you know Raphael Saadiq was in Tony! Toni! Toné!? SRSLY! Listen below and click here to snag Chimes of Freedom from iTunes.

My Morning Jacket — “You’re A Big Girl Now” (Bob Dylan cover)

Raphael Saadiq — “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” (Bob Dylan cover)

*RIP, Billy. Something tells me Saint Peter is well stocked with Oxy Clean, whether he needed it or not.

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