Life in the Beat Nation
Over the past 15 years First Nations artists in Canada have taken to hip hop as a powerful storytelling method. Â First Nations hip hop is an incredible blend of traditional art forms, evocative imagery and raw and real exerpience relayed with a beat. Â It’s as if hip hop was built for indigenous expression – being story based, status informed, poetic and underscored with a heartbeat. Â I have a bunch of friends in this field including Skeena Reece, Jerrilynn Webster, Manik1derful, Rachel Oki, Wasaskwun Wuttunee and others.
Beat Nation was an exhibition of indigenous hip hop artists that closed in March 2010, but the site is still up and there is a great essay there from Tania Willard about the then current state of indigenous hip hop culture and one by Skeena Reece on hip hop in the indigenous context:
I think that a larger conversation needs to take place to really get to theÂ root of what I am talking about here. We are now seeing on a grand scale,Â also due to the growing number of young Indigenous people coming ofÂ age, a massive documentation process and participation in mainstreamÂ culture. They are talking about their standards of living, theirÂ communities, their hopes and fears, and we need to listen. We need toÂ open our eyes and really see what they are presenting and not just as aÂ last resort to avoid any great catastrophes: we need to use it as a firstÂ resort for guidance in our roles as adults and guardians. Just as in anyÂ massive form of communication, there are going to be sentimentalÂ statements made, broad sweeping fears expressed and lots ofÂ â€˜documentationâ€™ to examine, but we should really consider ourselvesÂ lucky. Native youth, Native people, Indigenous people, hip hop people areÂ presenting ideas, making connections, drawing conclusions and askingÂ important questions. If we use this is as a basis of discussion, we can seeÂ that theyâ€™ve taken a lot of guesswork out of the equation and what we areÂ left with is the essence of where they are at, exactly. As adults, educators,Â helpers, historians and just plain human beings we need to honour thisÂ subculture as much as we honour our own families. In doing this, weÂ honour ourselves, our people and our humanity.
Just cool stuff.