Rap and relativity


Speaking of public radio, NPR this morning relayed a story about Somali rapper K'Naan, who -- because he grew up amid the discharge of rocket-propelled grenades in a war-torn capital -- views the tough tales of American gangsta rappers as being pretty light by comparison. As K'Naan noted, it comes down to a matter of perspective.

K'Naan grew up in Mogadishu, on what he calls "the meanest streets in the universe." In one song on his new album, he calls his hometown the "risky zone," full of pistols and Russian revolvers.

"The song's called 'ABCs,' " K'Naan says. "And it's about how being born in a certain place changes everything, your destiny. I got the kids choir singing, 'They don't teach us the ABCs / We play on the hard concrete,' and for us, that is very true."

Somalia is one of the poorest and most violent countries in the world. Malnutrition and clan warfare are rampant. According to Amnesty International, some 6,000 civilians were killed in fighting in 2007 alone. K'Naan says he wants to use his music to raise consciousness about what's happening there.

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