O’siyo. More and more we’re seeing (and hearing) Native rappers expressing themselves through hip-hop music. Many who are from the First Nations, are keeping their cultures alive through verse and music by rapping in both English and in their Native languages. The topics range from crime, poverty, and politics, to struggling life on the reservation, the old ways, and prayer.
Excerpt: 7 First Nation Rappers Crushing Stereotypes...By Chelsea Hawkins
“You’ve likely heard Angel Haze, the insanely smooth, mixed-race indigenous rapper, spitting lyrics from your speakers. The uber-talented 22-year-old MC might be one of the best known Native names in hip hop today (she even speaks Tsalagi, a Cherokee dialect) but she’s part of a larger, thriving First Nations underground music scene, in which men and women are using their rhymes to tell the stories of lives often unseen and voices often unheard. Hip-hop remains a vehicle for many people of color to share their experiences and incite change, and there’s a certain strand of political and social commentary running through Native hip-hop in particular. This might be because our communities can be hyper-aware of the ways in which we interact with government. Or because we’re faced with so many questions regarding legitimacy — like who’s “native enough,” and who receives federal recognition. Or because we’re grappling with issues of cultural survival as our language and traditions die out. Or maybe it’s just because, as independent musicians, there is more room to voice controversial opinions and experiment with sounds.”
“Sicangu Lakota and member of the hip-hop group Nake Nula Waun, Frank Waln is one of the most outspoken young rappers in the indigenous music scene today. His song “Oil 4 Blood” takes a political stance on the Keystone XL pipeline controversy, which embroiled indigenous groups in a political battle when it became clear the TransCanada oil pipeline would need to run under Native lands.As a rapper, Waln is in-your-face and tells it exactly as he sees it. And he’s not alone in his opinions: The Keystone XL pipeline continues to upset plains Indian tribes to this day.”
“Supaman, also known as Christian Takes the Gun Parrish, told NPR in 2011 that the stories voiced through Compton’s gangsta rap weren’t far off from life on the reservation: “Hip-hop was talking about the ghetto life, poverty, crime, drugs, alcohol, teen pregnancy; all that crazy stuff that happens in the ghetto is similar to the reservation life. We can relate to that.”
“Ojibwe rapper Tall Paul doesn’t want to be known solely as a Native rapper — and he is definitely more than that — but without a doubt he cranks out beats and lyrics that speak to indigenous communities around the globe.
His track “Prayers in a Song” addresses issues of assimilation, the continued eroding of indigenous cultures and the loss of traditional languages:
“I wasn’t furnished / With language and traditional ways of my peeps / Yeah, I used to feel like I wasn’t truly indigenous / Now I say miigwech gichi-manidoo / For showing me my true roots, definitely Native.”
JB the First Lady
“Canadian aboriginal rapper and beat boxer, JB the First Lady, calls her music political but positive. Her sound is easily mainstream and speaks overwhelmingly to a woman’s experience, regardless of racial and cultural lines. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t also out there protesting and singing traditional songs. JB has been deeply involved in Idle No More — a political and social resistance to end colonization and the loss of reservation lands — by performing spoken word pieces and calling people to action.”
“Reddnation disbanded in 2013, but for years they were creating Native-focused music and using hip-hop to call people to political action. Their song “Take a Stand” specifically sheds light on environmental concerns many have regarding the potential sale and development of Native lands, and the continuation of environmentally-unsound practices that affect their communities’ cultural survival.”
Kuddos to these young Natives for spreading the word…and keeping their culture alive! Visit Policy Mic to hear some of the songs from these artists.
“Time to rise up, take a stand / To protect the children, protect the land / Protect those waters and everything in it / Because another government is changing minute by minute.” ~Reddnation~ Take a Stand