The “stars lined up” as fancy dance champion and hip-hop artist Christian Parrish of the Apsalooka Nation (Crow), aka Supaman, and eight time world jingle dress champion Acosia Red Elk, an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, came together for a beautiful, powerful video called, “Why?” that is blowing up in Indian country.
Parrish, who often infuses traditional Native instruments such as drums and flutes into his hip-hop also won the Artist of the Week via MTV's Iggy bloglast year with his popular “Prayer Loop” song.
ICTMN caught up with Supaman to ask about the how and why of his music video “Why?” and heard how he responds to those who say he shouldn’t combine traditional sounds with the new. Supaman also spoke about two upcoming albums, “Last Stand Mixtape,” which will be a compilation project alongside other native artists, and his own project Illuminatives, to be released New Year’s Day, 2016. He promises it will deliver plenty more “experimental styles.”
What is the message you hope to convey with “Why?”
It touches on a lot of tough questions about why things are the way they are, not only in our culture but various subjects like suicide, deadbeat dads, why do bad things happen to good people?, why do some people make it and why do others die? Just questions we all have about life. I threw them all together in a couple of verses. I’m just trying to connect with the audience and spark those questions so that maybe [people] don’t just go along and accept things simply as the way they are, but actually want do something to bring change in ourselves, or change the way society thinks.
What does it mean to you in the “Why?” video when it says, “To dance is to pray, to pray is to heal”?
When I’m trying to answer questions in my own life and I don’t understand something, I’ll go out there dancing and I’ll be at peace, but I’m also in prayer. Sometimes we don’t understand why we go through things, but the question after the ‘why?’ is, ‘how are we going to react?’ In prayer, in peace, and in hope, that’s where our dancing comes in. Our dances as Natives are our prayers.
How did you get jingle dress champion Acosia Red Elk to appear in the video?
She’s a good person, a great dancer, and I’ve known her because she’s been on the pow wow circuit for years. I remember talking to her awhile back about doing a video and she said she’d love to do it. Then it was kind of like the stars lined up this summer: She had just gotten back from a pow wow and was in the Crow Reservation area and at the same day the guy who shot the video, Tom Clement, was in the area and said he’d like to do a video. I had the song for it—which I had just finished—and so I was just like, “Hey, this is working out. This is supposed to happen!” I told Acosia the concept of the song, and the history of the jingle dress dance is that it’s a healing dance and so she was perfect for it.
Award-winning Hip Hop artist Supaman's music video "Why" also features world champion Jingle dancer Acosia Red Elk Photo: YouTube ScreenCap
Through collaborations like The Last Stand Mix Tape that you’re a part of, where do you see the future of hip-hop for Natives?
When I first started there were only a handful of MCs with a lot of lyrical skill that put in their work. Nowadays, there are a lot of Native MCs really taking their time to seriously write, practice and perfect their craft in the art of hip-hop. The skill level and bar has been raised very high and anyone who seriously listens to hip-hop—Native or not—when they hear a person with skill, they’re going to be more open to hearing the message of what that person is saying.
What do you say to people who think combining traditional music with modern music is wrong?
Our Native youth are hurting inside. They’re drinking, doing drugs and committing suicide. So I always tell them what my elders told me: As long as you’re doing something with a pure heart to reach out to them and your intentions are good, go for it. Anything done in a good way is worth doing.