Grammy winner Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas - An Indian Country Today interview

Vincent Schilling

Taboo talks about his Indigenous People’s Day performance and a passion for learning more everyday about Indian Country

Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas, Shoshone and Hopi, will be joining his world-renowned Grammy-winning group, the Black Eyed Peas, and the iconic Native American rock group Redbone for a grand finale concert at the inaugural Indigenous Peoples Day event in Los Angeles on October 8th.

Taboo sat down with Vincent Schilling of Indian Country Today to share his thoughts about the upcoming performance. In addition to talking about his performance with fellow members of the Black Eyed Peas, and, Taboo spoke of his willingness to learn about Indian Country, spoke of honoring his grandmother and also offered words of advice to young Native aspiring artists.

Vincent Schilling: Hey Taboo, thanks for taking the time to talk with me.

Taboo: I am a big fan.

Vincent Schilling: Ok you are freaking me out I am a big fan back.

Taboo: (Laughs) Hey, what you do for Indian country is really important because you are a journalist you are a writer, and you know the pulse of our community. For myself, as a new voice in Indian Country, that has a large presence due to my exposure as a member of the Black Eyed Peas, I am so thankful to be in this place. You know in the Black Eyed Peas world, we meet people from Rolling Stone and all these different magazines, but for me, my life and my heart is in Indian Country. So whenever I see something that's elevating Indian Country and putting our people on the map and addresses the issues that that are very important to us - I’ve got to appreciate it. I have a personal love and and kind of a fan perspective of the work that you do.

Vincent Schilling: Well back at you Taboo. Because I appreciate you I appreciate what you're doing and I appreciate everything that you're achieving.

Taboo: I'm doing the best that I can in following the legacy of my grandmother who was really the integral part of my shaping you know, who I am is as a proud Native but also as an entertainer and as a husband and a father. Her love for her culture and her love for Jerome, Arizona where she came from — that essence of being proud and holding your head really high in times where people did say the meek will inherit the earth. And other stuff like ‘Indians shouldn't be proud’ or ‘Natives should be only in Indian Country.’ I'm like nah, fuck that, we're going to be having the same discussion at the same roundtable that every other culture has had. We are invisible no more and we are here to stand up. We're proud and that's why I'm like every moment that I get to speak about Indian Country, because you best believe I'm using this huge platform to pray and to honor the elders and the the folks that came before us.

Photo courtesy: Taboo IG

Vincent Schilling: That is great to hear your passions Taboo. And now of course you are going to have an exciting time this weekend with your performance with the Black Eyed Peas at the Indigenous People’s Day and concert taking place in Los Angeles.

Taboo: Dude, when I got to meet Mitch (Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell, a member of the Wyandotte Nation, who led the initiative to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day) it was like we had kindred spirit. Because yes we are Angeleno (a Los Angeles Native resident) and we are of Native and mixed descent but the thing about him is that Mitch’s love for his culture and community is very infectious. So when I got to meet him and I started talking about the idea of me performing with PJ Vegas and Redbone. It was great because I'm already a fan of Redbone. And you have already done coverage in Indian Country Today on #MAG7 with PJ Vegas, Drezus and Supaman and so many other amazing and talented Native artists.

Vincent Schilling: Yes you Taboo and other folks have done some amazing work that I have written stories on in Indian Country Today.

Taboo: Yeah, I know. You know that's why I love you, man. Cause you're always ahead of the curve before anybody else is checking. You're always checking and I love that.

Vincent Schilling: Thanks so very much Taboo. Your words are heartfelt.

See related story:All Nominees Win! Taboo, Native Artists Win MTV VMA for Stand Up / Stand N Rock

Taboo: Absolutely. So all that being said, about performing it at an Indigenous Peoples Day. The first-ever in Los Angeles, we brought up the idea of “Hey, how about if I take it a step further and I asked my comrades and to be part of this and make it Black Eyed Peas performance to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day. You know, sharing a stage with Redbone and PJ Vegas is already fantastic. So hey, we're just lending our voice and our support as the And the other guys said, ‘yes, let’s do it.’

Vincent Schilling: That is a grand-freaking slam Taboo. So what's going on your mind now? I don't think people understand how big this event is going to be in Los Angeles.

Taboo: So as an Angeleno who grew up in Los Angeles — I lived in the projects of Dogtown for many years — I am even more honored to be mentioned in the same breath as Redbone and in the same breath as other indigenous artists because as an artist you try to uplift and use the vehicle that the Creator blessed you with, and my vehicle is Black Eyed Peas. So my gift to uplift in the messaging of celebrating Indigenous People’s Day is to say ‘Hey, let me bring my crew and all we want to do is just add on to this amazing occasion and festivities and just Elevate all indigenous people with words of love. With ‘I’ve got a feeling’ and ‘Let's get it started.’ That's our gift, just to be able to give back.

Vincent Schilling: Inspiring words, the crowd in Los Angeles will be in for a phenomenal performance. So what other great things do you have coming up?

Taboo: There is no stopping. We have a lot of great things coming up. We are working with #MAG7, and we have a documentary coming out next year about the collaboration at Standing Rock to celebrating indigenous artists and giving them a platform and a voice to be able to do to let the world know about these amazing artists. This led us to MTV music award and now we just give it back to any time that we can we give back. I've also been blessed to bring Brooke Simpson into the family.

Photo courtesy: Taboo IG

Vincent Schilling: Yes I interviewed Brooke Simpson regarding her experiences with Miley Cyrus and her performances on The Voice.

Taboo: I am creating my own story. I eventually want to do what P Diddy did with Bad Boy and give Indian Country international appeal.

Vincent Schilling: As a Native person that is with the Grammy winning recording group, the Black Eyed Peas, you undoubtedly have a huge platform. But considering you are in a spotlight that traverses two worlds, a Native world and the entertainment world, do you feel as though a lot of responsibility has been put on your shoulders?

Taboo: Truth be told, I'm treading very lightly because I am new to Indian Country. That's how my grandma raised me. I have never liked to take credit for things have already been built. But what I like to do is just add on. I like to bring stuff to the buffet and I like to bring things to the party because I think we need to highlight these Native heroes. We need to highlight people like Nataanii Means’ and Frank Waln you know? There are all of these amazing Native artists that have been putting in so much work prior to me coming in and I am just lending a little fraction of my voice to be able to to give Supaman that lane that he deserves — that he's been putting in work for so many years. Drezus, and all these cats. I tell them ‘I'm a big fan of you guys and any little thing that I can do to help, I just want to be of service.’

Vincent Schilling: There are a lot of Native youth who want to be musicians and they want to hear what it takes. What you can share with them? What do they have to do?

Taboo: My initial reaction or my initial advice would be to perform. Honestly the thing that got me to where I'm at is performing, even if it was at a dive bar, even if there are two people in the audience. I think a lot of the millennials think, ‘I've got to put something on Soundcloud and it's going to pop!’ Yes, that's one aspect of it. But there is another aspect, you've got to go be in the trenches. You’ve got to build a following so that people can see, ‘Oh, besides having a hot record. He can actually perform! He actually has some viability on stage and can give me something where I want to pay the 25 bucks to go see this man or woman perform.’ For example, Supaman is really good. I think of Supaman because he's an inspiration to me. He's been working the circuit for a long time. I can see how many people that come out to watch him is growing and growing throughout the year. It's because he's performing every week, every day. I see him in a different spot building a following, building a fan base. Like they say, ‘If you build it, they will come.’

Video: Taboo as the Nike N7 Ambassador

Vincent Schilling: You have been put into a pretty big spotlight in so many ways. Navigating the world of Indian Country can be overwhelming because there are so many cultures and traditions and it is always a consideration to be respectful. I remember one time in Akwesasne I had said ‘no thank you’ to an offering of food. A Mohawk elder let me have it because my response was rude amongst my tribe. Believe me I learned my lesson. Has there ever been a time where you felt you made a mistake?

Taboo: Yes, there was something I learned with me being naive and not really knowing too much. There was a time when Black Eyed Peas got a big deal with Marvel for this Masters of the Sun project. Marvel asked if I had any superhero that spoke to me from the Marvel universe. Not knowing, I said, the amazing superhero that spoke to me was Red Wolf. I had no idea what the regalia or cosplay was going to be until I got there. So when I did the cosplay, naively I didn't know that Indian Country was looking and said “Look bro, we are not a costume. The beadwork is phony. That's not how we are.’ I felt horrible. At the time, I had no idea about the level of culture appropriation.

Vincent Schilling: So it sounds like you are learning a lot. Do you feel as though you are?

Taboo: Yes. I get to learn a lot about Indian Country. Because, respectfully I don't know everything about about Indian Country, but I'm definitely learning every day. I do not have an ego about getting information and learning about my culture, or learning about where I come from. In order to shape my future, I’ve got to know my past. Because I'm an urban Native that grew up in Los Angeles, my only direct connection to Indian Country was my grandmother and she was already living in LA. So now I humbly go to different places and I am honored to meet such amazing people as Bethany Yellowtail and Sarah Eagleheart and Sam McCracken at Nike N7. The way I see it, I am like, ‘hey guys, please educate me and informed me about ways to understand about our culture.’ Because I admit, I do not know everything.

Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor and senior correspondent, Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter -@VinceSchilling


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Comments (1)
No. 1-1

This interview made the feature writer/arts editor in this old journalist happy. You and ICT are a bright light in the world. Shine on!