Scholarly Articles Exploring Indigenous Hip-Hop: Michael Cebuliak

As I am still exploring my original inquiry, in this most recent web log I have elected to draw my research from more scholarly articles as opposed to electronic media, as in my last log, that is primarily directed to those interested in popular entertainment.  I am interested seeing the differences of perspective between how indigenous youth represent themselves, compared to how academics, either of Indigenous origin or not, represent these youths.  I am also interested in exploring whether traditional hip-hop culture spoke to these youth because of similarities or because of exposure by popular media: What do the academics believe?  It would also be interesting to observe why both the youth and academics account for either the success, or lack thereof, for Indigenous hip-hop.  How have, or why haven’t, these young artists changed their art to garner greater commercial success.  Who is changing more, the artist or the audience?

Deyhle, D. (1998)  FROM BREAK DANCING TO HEAVY METAL Navajo Youth, Resistance and Identity: Youth & Society, Vol. 30 No. ! (pp. 3-31).

Teen angst has long been a foundation for younger fans of popular music.  Certainly, angst has shaped both the hip-hop and heavy metal music cultures.  However, the former has a decidedly social agenda that comes from oppression and racism while the later comes primarily from male hormones and frustration with feelings of disempowerment.  In Deyhle’s article it is posited that some Indigenous youth gravitated towards heavy metal as a fatalist malaise that characterizes so many youth trapped between a hegemonic power that will not accept them and a traditional way of life that has vanished.

Andrew Warren & Rob Evitt (2010) Indigenous Hip-hop: overcoming marginality, encountering constraints, Australian Geographer, 41:1, 141-158, DOI: 10.1080/00049180903535659

Warren’s article is interesting as it explores how urban environments are no longer considered the epi-centre for hip-hop culture; rather, “emerging technologies, festivals, programs and online networking have helped enable unique forms of music making.”  This article also dispels the notion that many Indigenous youth are without ambition, direction, passion and most importantly, hope.  It is also interesting to note that, within this article it is observed that expectations of what characterizes proper indigenous art are seen as stumbling blocks to the voice of these youth.

Kyle T. Mays (2016) Promoting sovereignty, rapping mshkiki (medicine): a critical (Anishinaabeg) reading of rapper Tall Paul’s ‘prayers in a song’, Social Identities, 22:2, 195-209, DOI: 10.1080/13504630.2015.1121574

Mays explores Leech Lake Naishinaabe rapper Tall Paul to examine how some Indigenous people use hip-hop for cultural preservation as a means to address issues of sovereignty.  One aspect of considerable interest to me is the exploration of how urban Indigenous hip-hop seeks to reclaim urban spaces where these artists, and their people, have largely gone unrecognized.  This is significant as more Indigenous peoples are presently living in urban environments than on their traditional lands shared only with their people.   It would be interesting to explore how hip-hop culture addresses issues of culture and sovereignty in both environments.  Also, the essay examines the perception of modern and traditional as a binary construct that inhibits Indigenous people from fully participating, and garnering acceptance, in contemporary, popular culture.

Bonar Buffam (2011) Can’t hold us back! Hip-hop and the racial motility of aboriginal bodies in urban spaces, Social Identities, 17:3, 337-350, DOI: 10.1080/13504630.2011.570973

My primary interest in this article is in its exploration of hip-hop forms of expression that are “distinctly Indigenous” .  In particular Buffam explores how breakdance has allowed these youth from a drop-in recreational centre in the inner city of Edmonton, to create hip-hop art that is endemic to their culture and location.  It is interesting to speculate on why something original, or different, would evolve from such a unique environment and how it is related to their culture.  It is also interesting to note how Buffam believes that these youth are challenging the status-quo by creating their own spaces in a world where hegemonic forces have previously defined them.

Alexa Woloshyn (2015) Hearing Urban Indigeneity in Canada: Self-Determination, Community Formation, and Kinaesthetic Listening with A Tribe Called Red. American Indian Culture and Research Journal: 2015, Vol. 39, No. 3, pp. 1-23.

There is no denying the impact that A Tribe Called Red has had on the Canadian hip-hop scene and is beginning to have on a global front.  Their popularity to a non-indigenous crowd, has afforded a dialogue permitting important questions of Indigenous people’s self determination, representation and expression in a largely ignorant albeit accepting audience.  Their music called “powwow step” incorporates traditional Frist Nation drumming with dubstep, in an environment that attempts to replicate the community, and vibe, created within a powwow.  Woloshyn attempts to explore if an accepting environment for A Tribe Called Red was of their making or was finally not challenged by the status-quo.  It is also interesting to speculate about the popularity of their music as the club scene is not especially known for creating music, with lyrics that inspire thought, as much as it is known for creating a community where problems seemingly disappear within the midst of music, dance, community and copious amounts of alcohol and other drugs.  Is a Tribe Called Red allowing us to confront a reality or escape from one?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.