Where is K’naan?

I recently read a great article in Fast Company magazine – Portrait of the Rapper as a Young Marketer: How K’naan Delivered on Coca-Cola’s $300 Million Bet. It’s about K’naan, a Somalian musician, his rise to fame when he booked an advertising deal with Coke for the World Cup 2010, and how he’s still trying to make it in the music business.

One interesting fact about K’naan’s deal with Coke is that he created a special cut of his song “Wavin’ Flag” for the campaign. It’s called the “Celebration Mix.” The two versions are here:

Some would call this act of creating two versions of your song “selling out” – but K’naan does not think so.

“I knew Coke wasn’t going to put its money behind ‘So many wars, settling scores/ Bringing us promises/ leaving us poor.’ And writing a whole new thing would have been a jingle. Emmanuel was too sensitive to ask me to rewrite ‘Wavin’ Flag.’ So I offered to do it.” … “It might sound arrogant or stupid,” says K’naan, “but I feel so outrageously authentic at what I do that the question of selling out or not selling out doesn’t even enter my head. I think people who worry about this must already be worried about their true credibility. I’m just interested in, How do we get my message out?” (Fast Company)


Another interesting part of the article is about where K’naan is now in his career. He’s not in a place where you would expect a musician who has been heard so prevalently to be. He’s tired. He’s depressed. He’s divorced. He’s playing at small venues. I highlighted some parts of the actual article and attached it.

What does it take these days for a new music artist to get big? It seems like many of the newer artists are struggling to find an audience. What is the reason for this? An increasingly digital music audience who value singles over artist loyalty? Will K’naan be able to make it big in the coming years?