Warparty: The Great Natives from the North
by Simon Reece
Warparty first started off rockin’ free shows for small crowds at conferences, clubs or whereever there was a stage. Now Warparty has become the very first Native hip hop crew to have a music video in high rotation played on Much Music. The first Native hip hop crew to host Rap-city they've opened up shows for rap legends such as Ice-T, Mack 10, Wu-tang Clan, K-OS and many others. Their song "Feelin’ Reserved" has gained them recognition across Canada, winning them two Canadian Aboriginal music awards for "Best Hip hop or Rap Album" and "Best Music Video". Warparty has brought Native hip hop to the forefront of the Canadian music scene. Warparty we're in town to play for a youth HIV education and awareness event, in between driving around between shows we got to know Warparty's Rex Smallboy.
Firstly talk about where you are from? Where did the group grow up?
We all live in Hobbema. It is our home and our community is important to us. That is why we try to make a difference with our music. We want to have a positive effect in our hometown. I grew up in Hobbema all my life. Cynthia grew up in Red Pheasant Sask. and Karmen grew up in both Calgary and Hobbema. We do have our fair share of social problems drug & alcohol abuse, gang violence but our music has helped us in staying positive for our people.
What inspired you to do hip hop music?
Hearing black artists speak on things they felt were wrong in their communities through hip-hop.
Why the name Warparty?
Because of old Cowboy & Indian movies with the typical Hollywood Indian image. We wanted to change that.
Does being from the Cree Nation have any influence over your music?
Yes, we talk to Cree elders in our community to help us stay focused and humble with our music. I also rap in Cree on "Lyrical Powwow."
What kind of feedback have you been getting from your hip hop? From both Native and non-Native listeners?
Both good and bad. The majority is supportive. A lot of kids e-mail us and tell us our music helps them believe in themselves. Sometimes we get some racist comments but I think that is just from people who do not like Indians in general.
What does native hip hop mean to you?
Native hip hop is still hip hop. Cynthia always said all good hip-hop is about empowerment. Things are changing in the rap world, look at Nas and his new song it's about empowerment.
How would you describe your lyrics and the content of your music?
They are very personal and motivated by life from the past, present and future.
All of your music is independently recorded and produced. Explain the importance to you and your group to remain independent.
It's hard being independent, if we could sign and deal and still maintain our artistic integrity I think we could do more.
What are the most common negative and positive comments you receive and how do you respond to them when encountered?
That Indian people should forget about the past. I try to let people know that we can't just forget about the past, it is part of who we are. I explain that we all need to face the past so we can heal from it and it will make things easier to move toward the future.
Who are your favorite Native and non-Native hip-hop artists?
Manik, OS12, Pac, 50, Jay Z, Nas, Biggie,
Where do you see native hip hop going in the near future? And further down the road?
A lot of these up-and-coming Native rappers are doing gangsta rap. I know some of these people are actually speaking about their lives from living in and around big cities. What I tell some of these new artists is to be honest with themselves in their music. A lot of young Native people are really taking to rap music. I hope we as artists take them in a good direction. The kids on my rez mimic what they see with gangsta rap. They sell drugs, they carry guns, they are starting to do drive bys, and people have even been shot and killed out here. I don't think that’s right or Indian. When I think about that future I am not too sure how good it will turn out. I know a lot of the responsibility lays with their parents. If they can teach them the difference between right and wrong things can get better.