Producer-activist David Strickland discusses the importance of the Native voice within hip-hop
Toronto, ON – On July 1, Native American producer and activist David Strickland released two brand new singles – “Rez Life” and “Window” – in protest of Canada 150.
These two tracks come to us as David gears up for the release of his forthcoming LP Spirit of Hip Hop. The releases also reinforce the importance of the Native voice within the Canadian hip-hop landscape by featuring Native artists relaying their Canadian Native experience.
Enlisting the help of some of Canada’s best Indigenous rappers (Que Rock, Drezus, Violent Ground, Joey Stylez, and Hellnback), “Rez Life” serves as a tell-all about the reservation and what it’s like growing up in this country as a Native youth. The release of “Window” is slightly more hopeful and uplifting, and focused on the ability within us all to overcome adversity; whether it’s larger scale systemic abuse or smaller scale personal hardship and suffering.
Listen to “Rez Life” and “Window” below, and check out our in-depth interview with David after the jump to find out more about his upcoming new project, his own journey to overcome hardship, and why the Native voice within hip-hop is so important for the youth.
“It’s important for Indigenous youth to know that we have contributed to hip-hop and that it’s a part of our DNA. The four elements of hip-hop from our vantage point is a reincarnation of native culture.”
– David Strickland
Q&A: David Strickland
HipHopCanada: Start off by telling me the significance behind each of these tracks to you on a personal level.
David Strickland: On “Rez Life” I wanted to outline the experiences growing up on the reservation and what it’s like for Native youth in today’s world. I released it on Canada’s 150th Anniversary in protest of the country’s treatment of Indigenous communities. “Window” is uplifting. I can relate to the message about navigating life’s sudden challenges and finding the strength to move forward despite your past and the people who may be holding you back. It’s a song about reflection and knowing that with time and the right attitude things do get better.
HipHopCanada: The timeliness of these releases are very key. Talk to me about the decision to release these tracks as protest during Canada 150.
David Strickland: I wanted to bring awareness to the state of emergency in Native communities. There is so much work to be done; some of which only we can do ourselves. I wanted to bring together some of the best Native MCs to do a song about their experiences on the reservation and life growing up.
“There is so much work to be done; some of which only we can do ourselves. I wanted to bring together some of the best Native MCs to do a song about their experiences on the reservation and life growing up.”
HipHopCanada: Talk to me about how you ended up working with the guys you worked with for these tracks (Drezus, Hakeem Roze, Que Rock, Violent Ground, Joey Stylez, and Hellnback), and what elements they bring to your sound.
David Strickland: Most of the artists featured I had been working with since the VICE documentary First Out Here. I was building a relationship with each of them by helping to creating their albums. “Window” came about because Drezus and I connected on specific life experiences. I wanted to include a vocalist that could relate to the vibe and message of the song and Hakeem’s contribution was the glue that made the song come together.
HipHopCanada: Talk to me about the title of your upcoming LP Spirit of Hip Hop, and how the Canadian Indigenous culture and history mirrors the American hip-hop culture and history.
David Strickland: The title of the album is meant to be an awakening to show Native youth that we have our own unique perspective. Hip-hop is a vehicle to tell our story, which is in some ways the voice of the voiceless. It’s important for Indigenous youth to know that we have contributed to hip-hop and that it’s a part of our DNA. The four elements of hip-hop from our vantage point is a reincarnation of native culture. It’s important for the pioneers of hip-hop and mainstream culture to see that we also love and appreciate the music and the potential it has to change lives.
“Hip-hop is a vehicle to tell our story, which is in some ways the voice of the voiceless.”
HipHopCanada: I am particularly fond of “Window” because it’s a song that’s relatable on both a smaller and larger scale. On a larger scale, it’s about people trying to move forward after years of systemic injustice. And on a smaller scale, it speaks to any individual trying to move forward in life. What has held you back in life and how were you able to move forward from it?
David Stickland: Growing up in the streets I surrounded myself with the wrong people, but was able to move forward by reconnecting with my Native roots. This has kept me grounded and allowed me to understand the higher purpose on my life.