Indigenous hip-hop artist seeks to inspire youth with music

Native American hip-hop artist Christian Parrish Takes The Gun brings his inspiring music to Regina for the Saskatchewan First Nations Summer Games.

Christian Parrish Takes The Gun (aka Supaman) urges aspiring artists to 'know your history'

Native American hip-hop artist Christian Parrish Takes The Gun (aka Supaman) performs at the opening ceremonies of the First Nations Summer Games at Leibel Field on Sunday. (Brad Bellegarde/CBC News)

The Queen City is playing host to the 2017 Saskatchewan First Nations Summer Games this week, and while athletic events get most of the attention, Indigenous entertainers are adding inspiring music to the festivities.

Among them is Native American hip-hop artist and powwow dancer Christian Parrish Takes The Gun (aka Supaman), who travelled from his home in the Apsaalooke Nation near Billings, Mon., to entertain a packed crowd at Regina's Liebel Field.

"I was drawn to hip-hop culture because it was the voice of the oppressed," Takes The Gun told CBC News.

"As an artist I'm going to be that person that young people can relate to, you know, so I tell my story about foster care, being drug- and alcohol-free.

"As an Indigenous people I feel it's our responsibility to uplift the people in a good way."

Takes The Gun has amassed millions of views for his online music videos in which he is dressed in full powwow regalia.

His videos provide a visual depiction of how he fuses native flute, singing, hand drumming, DJing, beatboxing and rapping together into a song, something that he brings to his live performance.

As an artist I'm going to be that person that young people can relate to, you know, so I tell my story about foster care, being drug- and alcohol-free.-  Christian Parrish Takes The Gun (aka Supaman)

Takes The Gun says he is well aware that some might see his performances as exploiting Indigenous culture.

"Even me putting the cultures together was a big thing," he said. "I'm always asked those questions."

Takes The Gun, who also performs in his native language, is among a group of artists nominated for an MTV Video Music Award for a song produced and created by Black Eyed Peas artist Taboo, who is also of Native American heritage.

The song and video were produced in support of the Standing Rock protest camp at the Dakota Access Pipeline site in Standing Rock, ND.

"[Taboo] reached out to me [and said] 'I'd be blessed if you would do a verse on the track,'" Takes The Gun said.

"He was like, 'Can you do it in your own language?' and I was like, 'Yeah, I can. So it was even more of an honour to be able to share the Apsalooke language on that track," he said.

The #NoDAPL campaign saw thousands of people rally in support of stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline in the fall of 2016.

Protesters travelled from across North America to Standing Rock Reservation, N.D. and the video, Stand Up/ Stand N Rock #NoDAPL, has scenes shot at the protest site.

"When it came to Standing Rock … I saw that people were using that movement as a way to promote themselves," Takes The Gun said.

"When it came to the Standing Rock song with Taboo it seemed in a good place … He was like, 'I'm not selling this song, it's not for that, it's to inspire the people.' Knowing that I was like OK, my heart is in a good place … it just felt right," he said.

Takes The Gun spoke adamantly about his beliefs as an Indigenous person and the need to understand the struggles of native peoples across North America.

He also offered words of advice for aspiring Indigenous artists: "Know your history … you're carrying something so valuable, which is the legacy of your ancestors. And once you know that, you'll want to uplift your people."

About the Author

Brad Bellegarde

Reporter for CBC Indigenous based in Saskatchewan

Born and raised in Treaty 4 Territory, he holds an Indian Communication Arts Certificate from the First Nations University of Canada and a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Regina. Follow him on Twitter @BBellegardeCBC