Somali rapper and singer K'naan may be his own worst critic: He took to the New York Times to pen an opinion piece examining his latest work -- and it's a pretty harsh review. In a column titled "Censoring Myself for Success," K'naan critiqued his own album, remarking on the "[dumbing] down" of the lyrics, and asserting that his latest record reads "infinitely cheaper."
In the piece K'naan discusses a meeting that took place with his record label that decided the direction of his album "Country, God or the Girl." At the meeting, K'naan says, "we talked about how to keep my new American audience growing. My lyrics should change, my label’s executives said; radio programmers avoid subjects too far from fun and self-absorption... The label wasn’t telling me what to do. No, it was just giving me choices and information, about my audience — 15-year-old American girls, mostly, who knew little of Somalia. How much better to sing them songs about Americans."
K'naan says he took this advice, working to make his album appeal on a broader scale stateside. "I began to say yes," he explains. "Yes to trying out songs with A-list producers. Yes to moving production from Kingston to Los Angeles. Yes to giving the characters in my songs names like Mary. So some songs became far more Top 40 friendly, but infinitely cheaper."
This push toward the mainstream is very clear on "Country, God or the Girl." The album features collaborations with Nelly Furtado, Nas, and even U2's Bono. While the album did perform decently well commercially, reaching No. 13 on Billboard's rap albums chart, K'naan writes that his album wasn't what he was hoping to make. "I had not made my Marley or my Dylan, or even my K’naan; I had made an album in which a few genuine songs are all but drowned out by the loud siren of ambition," he says. "Fatima had become Mary, and Mohamed, Adam."
K'naan made waves earlier this year when he spoke out against then-GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney using his song "Wavin' Flag." He said that Romney's camp had not asked him for permission to use the song, and he would not have allowed them to do so, had they asked.
For more, head over to NYT.