the nish naabe way
anthems of the indigenous kind
from ancestral beats flowing down the traplines
it’s the deep bass that resonates filling up space
from the aether above us
connects the souls of our feet to the land below us
where cyphers breathe and spark, birthing
indigenous infused rhythms and resistance
maaba hip hop bemaadziwin, that’s the hip hop life.
Back in highschool I was like many small town native kids getting schooled in everything hip hop from something new and exciting called, MuchMusic. At the school dances we’d do that side-step MC Hammer shuffle or the running man to Ice, Ice, Baby. I never thought of creating any rhymes, I just enjoyed the feeling that came from listening to this new music. It was revolutionary. When I landed on the West Coast there were many Indigenous hip hop artists connecting to those Salish Seas.
As a young writer and mother, I was submitting short articles to this Native youth magazine, RedWire. It was here where I was introduced to some of the young MCs who called Vancouver home for much longer than me. It was the early 2000s both my girls were learning to use the monkey bars and the rings, and I was around 28. At this time the Native youth population were gathering and performing their brand of hip hop at local shows. It was incredible to witness the love and to be part of this welcoming community.
One day down at Indigenous Media Arts Group I met two MCs, Manik1derful (Derek Edenshaw) and Ostwelve (Ron Harris). These guys were just riffing off, bouncing energy around the office, and probably showing off, just a bit. It was incredible to me how language was being used and infused with hip hop, it was resistance in practice. And it was lined with knowledge of the Indigenous thoughts, ideas, history, and traditions. It was backed up with some pretty deep love for West Coast life that was ancestral and alive.
Since then I’ve moved back to Ontario where the anishnaabe thrive. And I still love hip hop, especially the Indigenous kind, and boy has it grown. It’s the lyrics that I really enjoy. It’s lyrics that resonate and fills up space from the top of my head, right down to the bottom of my soles. It’s the Indigenous beats that echo into the past and reverberate into the present. And it’s resistance, revival, and ready to be creators of change that we so need.
You might remember a few years ago there was another wave of resistance called, Idle No More. There was so much media being produced that was intellectually charged and inspiring all artists and scholars to create. Magazines, books, interviews, and music was broadcasting from all directions. At the heart of this all was another wave of Indigenous hip hop. * Read here for more history from an exhibit, Beat Nation.And this movement came just in time. It ignited those burning embers into a strong fire. It’s exciting to see what’s coming up next and what’s coming through those ancestral lines like revolutions per minute. Stay inspired, keep creating, and be bold because we’re still here!
Upper Hutt Posse / Maori hip hop artists