Hip-hop music and culture has been one of the greatest cultural contributions that America has ever given the world. From France, to Japan, to South Africa the thumping bass and rhythmic lyrical accompaniment that is hip-hop has swept the globe. And now, America’s original inhabitants are bringing it back home in an effort to save their own culture.
Flex, an Ojibwe hip-hop artist, told Newspaper Rock, a Native American pop culture blog, “Hip hop has been in African-American culture for over thirty years, but for Natives, as hip hop artists, it’s something new to us.”
He continued, “Some of us have been doing it for years, but we really just got on the radar. Because it’s so new, we’re kind of where African Americans were with hip-hop 30 years ago, when it was about the message. These are intelligent people, they see how the world is run, they come from low-income areas with a lot of poverty and abuse, carrying shame, fear, and guilt along with them, and this is how they express themselves, this is how they let that stuff go.”
These hip-hop artists are not only working to reclaim their identities, some are using it as a way of passing their original language to a whole new generation.
It’s said that a language disappears every 14 days, and artists like Native Folks of the Ojibwe Nation are making sure that doesn’t happen to ojibwemoen, the language of many of the tribes of the northern Midwest.
Traditional culture has been going through a revival among the youth as a result of this kind of effort, with the young learning the traditional language and culture such as dance, dress, and story telling.
The new blend is perched to work its way into the mainstream with artists like Yelawolf, a Cherokee MC who was recently signed to Shady Records, the record label of Eminem.
With cultures all over the world losing the interest of youth and facing extinction, the success or failure of adapting ancient customs to modern youth culture will be a test of the possibility to keep these cultures and languages alive and kicking for generations to come. By speaking the language of youth these artists are hoping to encourage other young people to find their voice through speaking theirs.