There is an intriguing but problematic duality in the waves of hip-hop music from Indigenous artists: the negative lyrics and messages, and the positive or motivational speaker-esque lyrics and messages.
The challenge of this duality is perhaps best addressed by Tall Paul (Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe) an emcee from Minneapolis, MN who released his latest album this past December, entitled “No Good Good Guy.”
“I decided to make a project that more completely portrayed me as I entirely am,” Paul told ICTMN. “The good, the bad and the in-between, so to speak. I value honesty and it was just important to me to show my listeners all sides of who I am, for various reasons.”
Courtesy Tall Paul
No Good, Good Guy album
“I don't want anyone to ever feel like I intentionally mislead them should they come across some of my not-so-well-mannered music, because it is out there. I don't want to be boxed into being something that I'm not, or something that doesn't represent all sides of me.”
Prior to the release of his latest album, Paul received praise for his video Prayers In A Song which has been utilized by organizations including An Ojibwe Peoples Resource and has well-over 279,000 views on YouTube.
See Related: Rapper Tall Paul Represents His Culture
In the first track on his new release, “All Kingz,” produced by Colin Devane, Tall Paul starts with a slow build of percussion and instruments, and his lyrics challenge the ideology of power, gender roles and the norms of society.
Specifically, Paul addresses the accusations of infidelity against civil rights pioneer Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
But even if he was an infidelious cheater, does that erase the fact he was a great rebellious leader?
Paul’s moral of the story: even King was an imperfect being, so we too can all be “Martin Luther Kings.”
“Puppy Love” (produced by Burna Beats) is reminiscent of Rosie and the Originals, while “R&B Was Fake” (produced by G Mo) might help listeners feel as though they are back in the craze of 90’s R&B.
The ninth track, “Reservation Guilt Trip” (produced by 40Deebz), is another beautiful blend of instrumental and when combined with the lyrics: “Took away our ways of life, took away our Native tongue and taught their English to our young,” the beat pulsates with a rebellious rhythm.
At the end of “Reservation Guilt Trip,” Paul explains his reason for his amends-seeking a capella.
“The end of the song came from a longing desire to make amends to all those I've wronged in one way or another over the course of my lifetime. I guess the weight of the guilt from all those things can be humbling. Correct amends making is definitely an important part of my life now,” says Paul.
The final two songs don’t directly cover serious issues - rather, they’re just great hip hop with hard-hitting and witty punchlines.
With so many serious issues being presented throughout the album, it’s nice to just sit back and have fun reacting to each punchline that Tall Paul, Spotlight Team Deebo, KnoX, and Baby Shel bring out.
“I notice that too much, Indians want us to just be ‘Indians.’I think it's good to lyrically flex and have fun sometimes, not every song or project needs to be in a serious or introspective tone,” Paul says.
“I think it's good to create a balance that more truly represents who we are. Being the type of artist who tends to lean more toward writing songs that have some sort of deeper meaning to them, it can be a relief to get a little careless with it sometimes, if not often.”
Tall Paul’s album “No Good Good Guy” can be streamed and downloaded at http://tallpaul612.bandcamp.com/album/no-good-good-guy