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K'NAAN's song 'Dreamer' provides fitting backdrop for draft

The draft is about making the NFL dream come true for hundreds of college players. The artist K'NAAN captures the essence of the event with "Dreamer," which will be used as the theme song throughout NFL Network's coverage of the 2009 NFL Draft on April 25-26.

Like the prospects waiting to hear their name called, K'NAAN is an up-and-comer in the musical world and will be introduced to a new audience come draft weekend.

"Humans, we all have our turning points," K'NAAN said about being part of the 2009 NFL Draft. "The 'Dreamer' song was a turning point (for me) and the draft is certainly a turning point for some of those guys. That's a big thing, a big moment to acknowledge and kind of take a pause and reflect on how far you've come."

As a musician/emcee from war-torn Somalia, K'NAAN, whose name means traveler in Somali, was inspired to write and make music that allowed him to tell the story of his youth and country.

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"It was day-by-day just surviving for me, my brother, my sister and my mother," K'NAAN said.

Just before the United States embassy in Somalia closed in 1991 as fighting escalated, K'NAAN's family was issued visas to come to America, settling in Harlem, N.Y. when he was 13.

However, being away from the dangers of Somalia wasn't necessarily a cure for K'NAAN. When his family moved to an area of Toronto known as Little Somalia, he fell into a crowd looking for trouble.

"I used to roll around with a bunch of little hoodlums," K'NAAN said. "We were all immigrants and teenagers and we walked into a record shop with some bad intentions."

Ultimately, those bad intentions were thwarted when K'NAAN discovered the power of music.

"I put the CD in and 'New York State of Mind' (by Nas) came on and that basically changed my life," K'NAAN said. "It changed everything for me, because at that point is when I actually conceived of the possibility that I could make music. I could be a lyricist.

"The incredible poetic imagery of Nas' music made me think that if it's possible that he could (make music) about the Black-American experience that I should be able to do that about the African-slum experience."

The inspiration for "Dreamer" started with John Lennon's song "Imagine" and grew into K'NAAN trying to spread a message of hope.

Despite witnessing tragedy, K'NAAN overcame the odds and pursued his dream. He followed up his debut album, The Dusty Foot Philosopher, by releasing Troubadour in January.

As part of a video shoot for the draft, K'NAAN went to landmarks throughout New York City, including Radio City Music Hall and Times Square.

"The excitement of being in all these iconic New York places and really remembering where I'd come from and the dream that is making it through music," said the now 31-year-old K'NAAN, "it was a pretty powerful thing for me."

During the shoot, K'NAAN and first-round hopefuls B.J. Raji, Knowshon Moreno, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Vontae Davis and Darius Butler filmed a segment that will be featured during the draft.

Years of work and preparation for the college prospects will result in 256 players being selected in the 2009 NFL Draft, which has K'NAAN envisioning the culmination of a dream for all involved.

"The imagery is like we're all at the starting line and the shot (to start the race) is just fired," K'NAAN said. "We're all about to takeoff, this is the beautiful race and we're all about to do it and that's an amazing feeling."

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