Vincent Schilling
Indian Country Today

First Nations Haisla hip hop artists Yung Trybez and Young D say they are always pushing boundaries and heating things up.

Their music lyrics are unapologetic. Their imagery, whether it be a photo shoot, music video or Instagram post, are striking, in-your-face all the while maintaining an excellent balance between Native and hip hop culture.

In short, the Snotty Nose Rez Kids are what’s up.

At the time of this interview, Yung Trybez and Young D found themselves thrown up into the Spotify spotlight, in their words on their Instagram post, “[W]e hit a new milestone today!

They threw a couple of boys from the rez on the Yonge-Dundas Billboard in Toronto.”

The many reasons for the boost by Spotify was the start of Indigenous Heritage Month in Canada, and the release of their latest single “Something Else,” their take on the CNN blunder during the U.S. presidential election where CNN called the category containing Native voters as “Something Else.” The duo also released customized “Something Else” merchandise featuring t-shirts, tank tops and hat designs that are getting rave reviews on their social pages.

Their talent in the hip hop genre isn’t hurting their cred either. Since the release of their second of back-to-back albums in 2017, their third album “TRAPLINE” in 2019 and a pause in their career in 2020 due to COVID, the Snotty Nose Rez Kids have amassed over 2.5 million streams of their track “Boujee Natives'' on music platforms and over 1.6 million views of the song on YouTube.

Other popular tracks include “CREATOR MADE AN ANIMAL” featuring Boslen, “I can’t remember my name,” and “The Warriors” with an approximate three-quarters of a million hits each.

Just prior to COVID, the duo had managed to embark on a 60-plus show tour traveling to Canada, the U.S., Mexico, the United Kingdom and Australia. In terms of awards, the duo received Best Hip Hop Artist and Best Indigenous artist at the Western Canadian Music Awards, Best Album and Songwriters of the Year at the Indigenous Hip Hop Awards and Best Indigenous Artist at the Canadian Indie Awards.

Video interview with Vincent Schilling

Just a couple of “Native dudes from the rez”

In a Zoom interview with Yung Trybez and Young D from their home in Vancouver, Yung Trybez said though they’ve officially started recording professionally since 2017, it feels “like forever since we've been doing it.” Young D added, “We started writing as kids. It's always been a part of us. It's always been a passion of ours.”

“We just talk about our lived experiences,” said Yung Trybez. “We're just two Native dudes from the rez in Northwest B.C. And in our culture, all the knowledge we have is shared knowledge … our music is like a young, wild and free kind of thing... On the outside, we might look rough around the edges, but we're protected by our people.”

Young Trybez also said that though there aren’t really laws within the confines of hip hop, the Snotty Nose Rez Kids are held to a certain standard. Their messages—which include getting traditional tattoos while holding up the middle finger to oil company Kinder Morgan, using traditional regalia and imagery as part of their songs and using the powerful words of the elder that has since passed on, Beau Dick—are purposefully unapologetic.

“Within the laws of hip hop, there are no rules. You can do and say whatever the hell you want. We don't work for anybody. We work for ourselves. We work for our people. We make the news for our people. But with that said, being a First Nations, Indigenous artist, we hold a lot of accountability to our communities and to our people. And it's happened in the past where stuff that we've said has upset some people. I feel like settler artists, especially within the rap world or the music world, have a lot more freedom than anyone because they don't owe anybody, anything. They don't have to fight for injustices or inequalities or anything that's been holding their people back cause they don't get held back like we do,” said Young Trybez.

“So we do hold ourselves to a certain standard as far as freedom of speech goes. But like as long as our message is right, we usually get let off with being able to say pretty much what we want and how we want as long as we come correct. We do get held accountable by our community and we hold their hands up to them for that.”

Yung D said it’s about freedom of expression as an artist and promoting positivity.

“The way we feel like recording a record or being live on set or on stage and performing ... the freedom that we feel is similar to a dancer doing their thing. Whether it was like a powwow or a ceremony, that's how we feel and that's when we're, like, at our most free. I still have a tough time explaining it, but we could be having the worst day of our lives. But then when it's showtime we're able to channel it, take all the negative energy that we're going through and say, ‘Let's turn it into something positive.”

As far as advice for aspiring artists, the Snotty Nose Rez Kids, just two Native dudes from the rez, say it’s a simple, yet extremely effective formula: “Stay grounded, stay humble, work hard and dream bigger.”

As both of them proclaim, “Anything is possible.”

Upcoming shows:

June 20 - Grey Eagle Drive-In – Calgary, AB
June 25 – Vancouver International Jazz Festival – Vancouver, BC

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