Using HipHop as a means of cultural expression

In Moosonee, the favourite form of music among youth is hiphop.  The reason many share why they enjoy it is the messages shared sometimes hot close to home for themselves.  With the popularity of this genre of music, I am going to share in this post some resources in how hiphop is used as a form of capturing a cultural snapshot and sharing of culture and identity.

A Tribe Called Red – W5

This clip from W5 earlier in the year is a great resource with members of the band sharing how they are able to blend traditional Aboriginal music into modern hiphop music.  A great interview that can be used in English, media, music or native studies classes.


Shibastik – 7 Grandfather Teachings

Shibastik is originally from the Moosonee/Moose Factory area who has produced numerous hiphop recordings that focus on traditional teachings.  Some of his better-known songs include Moose River (my snowmobile is in there somewhere), Hand Drum and The 7 Teachings (shown above).  In the above video, Shabastik shares the 7 Grandfather Teachings that play a major role in the educating of Anishinaabe youth.  In the form of a hiphop music video, Shibastik shares the teachings as a way for youth to rediscover their heritage and identity.  His music always had a positive focus and he also has developed workshops that work with youth in helping them rediscover through music and art.


First Nations youth redefine resilience: listening to artistic productions of ‘Thug Life’ and hip-hop

This article, written by Brooks et al., examines how Aboriginal youth have used HipHop as a form of resiliency in defining their place in greater society.  Because of the greater effects of colonialism on Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, today’s youth are searching for identity.  In that search, HipHop provides an “out” through the telling of stories of those leaving the “ghetto” while making a name for themselves.  The paper is an excellent resource as it focuses on how “Thug Life ” and HipHop music can be used as a positive in enabling and empowering youth.  Examples of how this can occur in helping reclaim identity are found in the styles of music above.

Research Overview Hip Hop as Methodology: Ways of Knowing

Written by Charity Marsh (Canada Research Chair in Interactive Media and Performance, and Associate Professor in Media Studies, University of Regina), this report chronicles her involvement with Aboriginal youth in the creation of HipHop.  As shared in the report, she asks “How does hip hop challenge contemporary Canada to think about “Aboriginal” politics and colonialism in the present and the future, rather than framing them as only relevant to the past?”.  Through the creation of workshops and the opportunity for youth to create works of media in a way to “keep it real” and share teachings, traditions and values through music.  This provides an excellent blueprint to opportunities that can allow creation of similar projects all over Canada (and the world).

Native North America, Vol. 1

This compilation album features FMNI performers from the period of 1966-1985.  This album is the work of Kevin Howes, who worked to capture Aboriginal music from the time.  The choice of songs in the compilation focus on the shift in Aboriginal rights and recapturing of culture using music as a means.  Some of the artists may be well-know, others not so much.  I became aware of this album as two artists, Brian Davey and Lloyd Cheechoo, come from Moose Factory.  You can hear a preview of the song son the site but I hope you have an opportunity to purchase the album as you can hear the influences and groundwork towards what is today’s empowering music for Aboriginal youth. (It can be found on Apple Music)

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