This article on 10 thought-provoking lyrics from Native rap artists in the US first appeared at Indian Country Today Media Network.
There’s always a verse, hook, or rhyme that listeners hear and say – whoa, I wasn’t expecting that. But, regardless of its effect, we find ourselves singing along to it.
Hip hop artists usually bring the "shock and awe" factor in to their music, but they also deliver a message.
Whether it’s about Native "Heroes" or getting in to a little "Trouble", here are 10 Native artists whose lyrics made us say, hmmm.
Wab Kinew -- Heroes
Originally from the Onigaming First Nation in northwest Ontario, Kinew is an educator, broadcaster and has now added rapper to his many talents. His CD debut Live by the Drum won him an Aboriginal People’s Choice Award for Best Rap/Hip Hop CD in 2009.
Kinew challenges listeners to never forget where they came from in his latest song about Native heroes.
Lyrics: “Why did Tommy Price fight for all Canadian people/when right here at home he wasn’t considered an equal/overseas he fought with the heart of a warrior then came back home to be treated like a foreigner/So yeah, I’m live real lavish, for all the time that you called my people savage.
Short Dawg -- Trouble
Short Dawg, recently nominated for Best Hip Hop Album at the Native American Music Awards, paints a picture of what 'rez' life is like for him in the nominated single Trouble.
Lyrics: “Before I could finish the verse of this song/I got a text telling me my cousin was gone/died of an overdose.”
Chase Manhattan -- You my Favorite Hater
Manhattan was most recently nominated for Best Hip Hop Album at the Native American Music Awards for his album Alienated. His single You my Favorite Hater became a hit, and kept this Minnesota Native out of the cold. Manhattan, who is Pine Ridge Oglala, Leech Lake Anishinaabe and Muscogee Creek, has said that his music influence comes from his big brother and Native American roots.
Lyrics: “Doesn’t matter where you hustle every jungle got gorillas.”
Reddnation -- Fabulous
Reddnation, a group from Alberta, Canada, is a 2006 and 2007 Aboriginal People’s Choice Music Award Winners. They are one of North America’s longest running aboriginal hip hop groups of all time.
Lyrics: “Infinite wisdom, plus game equals fame.”
Nake Nula Waun -- Doubt
Nake Nula Waun is an award-winning hip hop artist from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. His name comes from a traditional Lakota phrase that means “I am always ready, at all times, for anything.”
Lyrics: “So, I got to learn to let go a pain that echo’s/regret slows my growth and grows like debt, bro.”
NightShield -- The Hangover
On his Facebook page, Night Shield dons himself as the most dominant rapper in the Midwest. He, like Nake Nula Waun, grew up in South Dakota and is Rosebud Sioux. He is a two-time Native American Music Award Winner and was one of VIBE magazine’s Top 50 Unsigned Artists in 2007.
Night Shield talks about coping with the pressures of reservation life in his song The Hangover.
Lyrics: “Got the world up on my shoulders/but I think I’m falling down/ and there’s no one there to catch you/while I fall and hit the ground.”
Litefoot -- My Land
Litefoot considers his hip hop style 'tribalistic funk' and he was one of the first Native hip hop artists to acknowledge his indigenous roots.
He has won six Native American Music Awards, including Artist of the Year.
Litefoot is also an actor, he played Little Bear in The Indian in the Cupboard (1995), Nightwolf in Mortal Combat: Annihilation (1997), and Russell in the 2002 award-winning Adaptation.
He sounds like a young LL Cool J in ‘The Land’.
Lyrics: “And now they talking this country ‘tis of thee’/and my people, they went through misery.”
War Party – Feelin’ Reserved
War Party made history as the first Native group to have its video air nationally on Much Music Canada. They also became the first Native group to win a Canadian Aboriginal Music Award for Best Rap or Hip Hop Album in 2001.
In Feelin’ Reserved, War Party opens up about feeling trapped on the reservation while trying to restore the pride within.
Lyrics: “I’m feeling the pain/the strain on my mental weighs heavy/ genocide makes me live my Native life deadly/I hope you get me, if you don’t let it marinate.”
Tru Rez Cru – I’m a Lucky One
Tru Rez Cru is an award-winning group from Six Nations of the Grand River. Lucky One won Best Song/Single at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards.
The song is dedicated to the singers’ parents and how they helped make them the lucky ones by pushing them to succeed in life.
Lyrics: “This is dedicated to those among us/who rose above us because they chose to love us/and when we didn’t push ourselves, they were first to shove us/sent from the sky and gave birth to the toughest.”
Joey Stylez -- Indian Outlaw
Sounds like Lil’ Wayne might influence Joey Stylez. One can’t ignore that Stylez’s raspy, almost computerized tone, and rock-star persona is what makes him appealing.
Joey Stylez was named one of the Top 25 Canadian rappers by CBC Music and won an Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Award. He was born a member of Moosomin First Nation, and later, moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Stylez is often difficult to understand, like Wayne, but ICTMN managed to hear this:
Lyrics: “Rock like I wanna rock/roll like I wanna roll/word on the street: I’m an Indian outlaw.”