He survived civil war in Somalia while listening to hip-hop albums, spit political lyrics on behalf of his home country for U.N. diplomats and had the entire planet wavin’ flags during the last World Cup, but now K’NAAN is taking his global musical movement down to the personal level with the help of his homegirl Nelly Furtado. It all goes down in his music video for “Is Anyone Out There?” the lead single from his upcoming album, Country, God, Or The Girl, which lands in stores on May 1.
In the video, K’NAAN and Nelly take on high school and family politics in place of the kind going down in DC and they focus on the wars we fight inside ourselves instead of the ones we wage with tanks and guns.
I don't wanna be left
In this war tonight
Am I alone in this fight?
Is anybody out there?
The most powerful part of the video is its strong storytelling vibe, which makes it easy to identify with the characters that emerge in the rhymes. Who hasn’t felt insecure and alone like Mary (Never won a pageant, Never felt pretty), an outcast goth girl angrily comparing herself to homecoming queen Hannah (Showin' off her banner, Rocking that crown, Make them boys go bananas)?
Or angry and depressed like loner Adam (Grew up mad and antisocial, Drugs were the only, Way out of his own life) who desperately needs his hands-off pops (When his mom had him, Dad was a phantom never took a look at him) to step up his parenting game?
+ VIDEO PREMIERE: K'NAAN featuring Nelly Furtado "Is Anybody Out There?"
K’NAAN has already racked up an impressive activist resume raising his voice for victims of the earthquake in Haiti and famine in East Africa plus, like Miley Cyrus and Rise Against, he’s featured on Amnesty International’s Chimes of Freedom benefit album -- so it’s cool to see the worldly artist lend his epic anthems, usually reserved for geopolitical issues, to individual struggles with this intimate video.
We wanted to learn more about this inspiring song straight from source so we asked if K’NAAN was out there and he responded! Check out our insightful Q&A with the multinational MC -- he definitely doesn’t hold back:
Act: When writing the song did you have this video in mind or did the video’s storyline come after the song?
K’NAAN: This video in particular came after the song was written. It was really [director] Chris Robinson's vision. Some songs feel like they can have so many different kinds of videos. The feeling in the song is too common of a human experience to have specific idea and so in times like that its better to go with someone else's vision.
How did Nelly Furtado get involved with the song? Did you have her in mind when you wrote the song? We know this isn’t your first collaboration with her!
Nelly is a friend and we've known each other for a long time so it was a natural fit. I worked with producers Sham and Motzart on the track and once we finished it, we needed someone to work with us on the hook and contribute something special. Nelly seemed like a perfect fit, someone who could even bring more to the song and she certainly did.
You’ve said in the past that you write “urgent music with a message;” what inspired you to write this song? What makes this message urgent to you?
First of all, I never said that, I mean who says that about their own music? What kind of creep would I have to be to compliment myself to that degree? In the words of Ricky Gervais in addressing God, "We wish we could all write our own reviews." Seriously, I don’t even know where that sentence came from and I'm always outraged by it so thank you for letting me set the record straight. As far as your question, the song was inspired by the most eternal human plague: loneliness.
K’NAAN has it right -- mental health is something we all wrestle with, even celebs like Vinny, Mary J. and Pete Wentz. So take his lyrics to heart -- offer a shoulder to people who are hurting in your life. You can start by taking action below.