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As they ride a serious hot streak, the Haisla Nation hip-hop duo make music for brotherhood, sisterhood, unity and Indigenous resurgence
SNOTTY NOSE REZ KIDS as part of THE BEAT presented by ImagineNATIVE also featuring Silla + Rise, Chhoti Maa, Boogey The Beat and others at Lee’s Palace (529 Bloor West), Saturday (October 20), 8 pm. $15. imaginenative.org.
Snotty Nose Rez Kids have been riding an incredible wave of momentum.
They officially formed in 2016, independently released two fiery, humour- and protest-filled mixtapes in 2017, and spent the majority of 2018 reaping the rewards – hip-hop artist of the year at the Western Canadian Music Awards, a spot on the Polaris Prize short list for their second LP, The Average Savage, and an ever-increasing spate of tour dates and festival appearances.
And they’ve already got their next move planned – or their next four moves: a new album slated for next year and collaborative releases with (respectively) Drezus, Mob Bounce and Nooky and Birdz from Bad Apples Music in Australia.
But according to the two Vancouver-based MCs – Darren “Young D” Metz and Quinton “Yung Trybez” Nyce – their snowballing success is bigger than just them. They’re part of a movement.
“We call it the minay movement,” says Metz.
Metz and Nyce hail from the Haisla Nation in Kitamaat Village in B.C., where “minay” means “brother.”
“But when we say it it’s not just brotherhood,” Metz continues. “It’s sisterhood, it’s family, it’s togetherness, it’s unity, it’s resurgence.”
It’s September and we’re sitting at the Drake Hotel, where the Polaris Prize is putting them up the day before the awards ceremony (they were runners-up to Jeremy Dutcher, their pick to win), and they’re making the most of their time in Toronto. They’re between rehearsals for their performance (which added masks and dancers to their usual bare-bones barrage of bars) and studio sessions for their upcoming album, Rez Bangers & Koolapops, due out in early 2019 on RPM Records.
When we meet, they’re high on a song they’ve just recorded with Toronto’s the Sorority, one of many guests slated for the album.
The flurry of activity hasn’t come out of nowhere. The project is only a couple of years old, but Metz and Nyce have known one another their whole lives. They connected first as writers during high school – Metz wrote poetry and Nyce did storytelling – and realized they were both into hip-hop. In 2012 they bought “entry level” recording equipment and began to mess around with early experiments, calling themselves Minay Music. In 2015, Metz enrolled in an audio engineering program at Harbourside Institute of Technology and one of his class projects was to make a mixtape. It was a solo project, but Nyce was the only feature.
“And we were like, ‘Yo, we sound really dope on record together,’” Nyce recalls. “And then going back to our childhood we remembered how everyone we listened to represented themselves, and we didn’t have anyone to look up to who looked like us. It wasn’t until our late teens that we realized there are other native rappers out there.”
Metz cuts in to mention a few influences: Winnipeg’s Most, Joey Stylez, Team Rezofficial and their MC Drezus (a recent and future SNRK collaborator).
“So now we wanted to make something that people who come from reservations and communities like ours can relate to.”
When they finished, they decided to call the debut album Snotty Nose Rez Kids. “And then we’re like, ‘Yo, let’s call ourselves Snotty Nose Rez Kids.’”
It’s the perfect name for the group – a proud, sarcastic, provocative reclamation of Indigenous stereotypes that follows through the rest of their music: songs about wearing their hair long, resisting pipelines, protecting their Haisla culture and flipping conceptions of “savages” and “Indians” on their heads. There are songs about the racism inherent in Canadian culture, while also taking aim at the “All Lives Matter” and “I don’t see race” lines of thinking that perpetuate white supremacy by pretending it doesn’t exist.
The extra exposure from the Polaris nomination has got them booked at all sorts of events, which has meant they’ve performed for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences. They’re happy playing for any crowd, they say, but Metz has noticed a key difference.
“Whenever it’s an Indigenous crowd it’s fucking wild. When it’s a mixed crowd it’s still wild. But then when it’s a pure non-Indigenous crowd, the people hear the music and it’s just like” – he channels Keanu Reeves – “‘Whoooa, I didn’t know that.’”
They’ve also had Indigenous people come up to them after shows and tell them about how their music has helped them get through dark points in their lives.
“That really means the world because that’s why we started making music,” says Nyce. “It’s a way of empowering our people and reclaiming what was stripped from us through colonization. It’s also a healing tool for us. I lost my brother to suicide a few years before we started writing the debut, and writing that album got me through a lot of things.”
Musically, they love Atlanta production – heavy trap beats, heavy 808s – as well as neo-conscious rappers like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, but they say their next album is most influenced by all the different nations they’ve travelled to this year, especially their slang terms. It makes sense: hip-hop has done more to spread regional slang than almost any other modern phenomenon.
SNRK have experienced it first-hand. This summer, someone spray-painted the word “skoden” on a water tower in Sudbury. The term, meaning, basically, “let’s go, then,” accompanied by a man in a fighting stance, has been a meme in Indigenous circles for the last year or so. But when people googled the term wondering what it meant, they found the Snotty Nose Rez Kids video, complete with its “fuck Trudeau” pipeline protest chant.
People often talk about “Indigenous music” or “Indigenous culture” as if it’s a unified thing, but that minimizes the multitude of nations and cultures that have existed on this land for thousands of years. “Yeah, I’m Indigenous, but that’s not who I am,” says Nyce. “I’m a Haisla man, and that’s who I am.” That’s one of the things they want to convey with their music.
Rez Bangers & Koolapops, their upcoming record, is a “dope native mixtape” with “heavy Indigenous vocalists.”
“That’s our rez bangers, and we’re going to bring fire to that,” says Nyce. “And with the rez bangers we need the koolapops and koolapops are rez classics.”
A koolapop is a mix of Jell-O and Kool-Aid, like a popsicle mixed with a freezie in a styrofoam cup, and people sell them out of their houses, says Metz, for a couple of bucks.
“You go to any rez in the north, like northwest B.C., and they know what a koolapop is. Out here they don’t.” He stops and chuckles. “But they will.”
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