Summary of organization/program
Beat Nation is a web-based project including a series of performances and exhibitions, initiated by grunt gallery.With Beat Nation, the vision was to bring forward what was going on in the aboriginal youth community, in terms of interest in hip hop, and the kind of synthesis of hip-hop culture and ideas with aboriginal stories, language, tradition, and that kind of fusion that was existing in the Native youth community.
- Local (Vancouver)
- Native youth who work within the hip hop genre and those that are interested in it.
- Umbrella Organization: Grunt Gallery
- A snapshot of the hip hop subculture that is being engaged by Native youth:Native graffiti art, indigenized ipods©, Inuit break dancing, indigenous-language hip hop and video, Indian bling and urban wear: the roots of hip hop culture and music have been transformed by indigenous cultures and identities into new forms of visual culture and music that echo the realities of Aboriginal people. Beat Nation is about music, it’s about art and it’s about the spirit of us as indigenous peoples and cultures.
The influence of hip hop on marginalized inner-city youth has been written about, Gucci© handbags have been made with graffiti art and car commercials feature hip hop tracks, but the culture of hip hop still has room for independent and local transformation, able to ignite youth expression and creativity. Hip hop has been used by youth and cultural workers from the Northwest Territories to South Africa as a tool for youth empowerment and expression.
In Vancouver BC, the unceded territory of Coast Salish peoples and a meeting ground for many different urban Aboriginal youth, hip hop has been an inspiration to art and politics since the early shows in the 90s put on by Shawn Desjarlais and Tribal Wizdom productions. On his political awakening and the inspiration of using Native hip hop for empowerment of Native youth, Shawn Desjarlais said, “I remember I felt mixed emotions back then: part of me wanted to cry, another part wanted to go out on the street and kick ass. Instead of scrapping though, we felt we should raise awareness through means other than violence. So we got out the spray paint and literally painted the town red, with all types of slogans, everywhere!”
In Vancouver’s slice of unceded Coast Salish territories, the influx of Native female MCs like Kinnie Starr, Rapsure Risin’, Jerrilynn Webster and the fast and furious stylings of Manik1derful and his partner in crime Os12 represent hip hop with a message. Hip hop as activism has been a driving force in Aboriginal expression.
This genre, the hip hop subculture that is being engaged by Native people today, is one of the strongest and most valued and respected streams of human consciousness. What are we doing with this information? How are Indigenous people engaging in this culture? How is it helpful and how is it harmful? In the lyrics of Indigenous hip hop today you can hear some of the most valuable accounts in our human history and evolution and de-evolution. Through the visual work and documentation of Indigenous hip hop artists, the amalgamation of our time on earth can be seen. This is very important.
Dominant Media Forms
multi media presentations
To bring forward what was going on in the aboriginal youth community, in terms of interest in hip hop, and the kind of synthesis of hip-hop culture and ideas with aboriginal stories, language, tradition, and that kind of fusion that was existing in the Native youth community.
Statement of Principles
- they feature online galleries filled with Native youth artists’ works
- have produced a Beat Nation catalogue to document the images and texts related to their project
- they host a range of performances and exhibitions at the grunt gallery to showcase the work of Native youth.
Samples of work
- Their website features an array of artist biographies that are rich with stories and narratives.
- On the site, we have a young female MC from Vancouver, Christie Charles, who’s from Musqueam, and she raps in Halkomelem, Musqueam First Nation language, which for us is really exciting. I think that that excites young people, because they’re already invested in learning language and tradition, but it also brings it to something that they’re currently kind of consuming in more mainstream culture, and brings those two together. I think that has always been exciting for younger people.
Beat Nation – Hip Hop as Indigenous Culture is funded through Heritage Canada’s Gateway Fund with support from Canadian Culture Online, a program dedicated to making First Nations cultural material available to all Canadians. We gratefully acknowledge the support from the Gateway Fund for making all this possible. Their continued support over the last four years has had a strong effect on our organization.A