K'naan, seen perfroming in Ottawa in 2012, is one of the featured rappers set to take the spotlight at the Kennedy Center's first-ever hip hop festival in 2014. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)
K'naan, known for his thought-provoking music and the blockbuster anthem Wavin' Flag, has landed a high-profile gig for 2014: the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
The Canadian rapper will join American rap star Nas and other artists for the venue's first-ever festival focusing on hip hop, a weeklong event dubbed One Mic: Hip-Hop Culture Worldwide that is set for 2014.
Along with rap performances, the festival will highlight DJing and graffiti art. The hip-hop celebration is part of the centre's 2013-2014 season.
"Hip-hop is clearly something new and different for us," Kennedy Center president Michael Kaiser said on Tuesday, as he unveiled the new season.
He noted that the Kennedy Center has previously held festivals celebrating country and gospel music — genres that are also less familiar to its concert halls.
"I think to do something very current is important. We're trying to speak to many different audiences."
Last September, K'naan released the autobiographical children's book When I Get Older: The Story Behind Wavin' Flag, which depicted his youth in Somalia, his family's decision to flee the country amid civil war and the challenges of his new life in New York and Toronto.
Just weeks later, he released an anticipated new album, Country, God or the Girl, which features a number of high-profile collaborations, including with U2's Bono.
In December, the New York-based K'naan penned a revealing personal essay about fame, artistic integrity and the music industry for the New York Times. In it, he essentially apologized for releasing new songs that were "more Top 40 friendly, but infinitely cheaper" than his earlier work.
"So I am not the easiest sell to Top 40 radio," he wrote in the Times.
"What I am is a fox who wanted to walk like a prophet and now is trying to rediscover its own stride."