“Before I could even finish the song, I got a text telling me my cousin was gone...” This line from Short Dawg The Native’s latest record “Trouble” paints a picture of his real-life experiences on the rez. The multi-nominated Hip Hop artist raps in the traditional Native way, but in a light-hearted, conversational and rhythmic tone.
It is what Short Dawg calls the intersection of ‘rez’ life and Hip Hop—a bridge between the old and the new. “I feel the music reaches me and my culture and history reaches my audience.”
Judging by his growing popularity, it seems like Short Dawg, also known as Raymond “Shorty” Galvan, and a member of the San Manuel Tribe of Mission Serrano Indians (and part Cahuilla) has made a real connection.
In 2008, he won the Best of Class-Hip Hop, West Coast Native American Music Awards. This year, he was nominated four times, including Debut Artist of the Year, Best Rap/Hip Hop Recording, Song/Single of the Year and Best Short Form Music Video, at the Native American Native Music Awards.
Aside from his music, Short Dawg, in his early thirties, is passionate about educating youth on traditional values. ICTMN caught up with the performer at the conclusion of the 3rd Annual Tha Pow Wow where he and his mother are major sponsors.
How do you feel about your multiple nominations for your hit single?
The multiple nominations are really a thrill and honor. It lets me know that my music and stories are reaching and touching other people’s lives and it inspires me to continue with my music. If one of my life lessons can put perspective into someone else’s life; I feel blessed.
What’s the story of Trouble? Did you get in Trouble?
Hard times come in cycles for me. At the time, there were many challenges and problems surrounding me. My aunt and godmother Pauline Murillo were sick in the hospital. Then, my cousin’s unexpected death a few weeks later really hit home. Looking at my past troubles and the expectations of the future made “Trouble” about the heartaches and pains of life and hope and possibilities for what comes next.
How does Hip Hop and rap fit into the Native world?
My grandma and aunt started teaching me the traditional songs on the rez. Back then, local schools would even bring students to learn about our way of life. From them, and my mom, I came to realize that we have an identity and a tradition of who we really are. The music of my generation is Hip Hop. While listening to the beats and lyrics, I saw a bridge that leads straight to my songs.
What is it you really want to say to the world?
Here I am, just a man trying to make it through this struggle. Listen to my stories and try to live your life without making the same mistakes I have.
What is going on in your recording business?
I am releasing my music as I live it—kind of a serial version. The last two songs out are “Money Motivation and Brought Up.” Next up will be “Knock It Out The Park.”
Why are you so passionate in educating Natives on your heritage?
The Serranos and Cahuillas have always been caring people. Being able to carry on—on the same trail—links me to the chain that is me. I do weekly presentations on the heritage and culture from our Native history [and] I feel it is necessary to bring the knowledge and traditions of my ancestors to the children and young adults that now live on our traditional grounds.
What was your involvement in Tha Powwow?
With my mother, Carla Rodriguez, we are major contributors to Tha Pow Wow. With that said, I don’t have the opportunity to be around or be immersed in the culture, arts and music of other Native American tribes. I’ve toured the U.S. twice with my band Dog Faced Gods, but seeing it through the eyes and beliefs of other Native cultures is really a very insightful experience.
Short Dawg, center, sings one of his songs
Are you performing in any powwow this year? How do you like performing in powwows?
I have been invited to a couple Southern California Powwows at Soboba and Pechanga, but most of the decisions are left until about a week before the happening.
Singing traditional Serrano and Cahuilla Bird songs are very spiritual for me so being allowed to come onto the field and tell our tribal stories through song is a real honor. I really enjoy it.
What is the next chapter?
I am jamming with my old friends from our band Dog Faced Gods, finishing a complete album with a total of maybe six more singles, including an autobiographical piece I call “Not The Same Old Guy.” And I’m going to be spreading the story of my tribe’s history and culture, as I define mine.