Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, K'naan spent his childhood in the district of Wardhiigleey ("The Lake of Blood") during the Somali Civil War, which began in 1991. His aunt, Magool, was one of Somalia's most famous singers. K'naan's grandfather, Haji Mohamed, was a poet. K'naan is also a Muslim. His name, K'naan, means "traveller" in the Somali language. K'naan's father, Abdi, left the country, along with many other intellectuals to settle in New York City and work as a cab driver. He mailed money home to his family.