February 11th, 2014 Last Updated on: February 11th, 2014
Interview by Dr. Dawn Karima, Music Editor
Many people all over the world remember and respect Russell Means for his tireless work for Native American rights and visibility. Now, his son Nataanii Means is forging a path that raises awareness of Native American issues and interests through his music. He sat down with me to share his feelings about his debut cd, entitled 2 Worlds.
Q) What's new in your world right now?
A) With the release of my debut album 2 Worlds has come quite a few shows and new opportunities. I'm looking forward to a lot more of that has time comes. As of right now, just shooting music videos and doing shows.
Q) What do you want us to call the musical style that you use?
A) I don't like categorizing my music to just “Native hip hop” or anything like that. I tell people its music with a message, human music that people will relate too and bring into my world of being Indigenous in the 21st century. Basically just Hip-hop.
Q) When did you first perform for an audience? What are some of your best, performing memories?
A) My first performance was at a Rock the vote rally in Santa Fe, I enjoyed that performance because I got to do my song “Dead Presidents Resented Me”, in front of gung ho americans, and they still loved it. Some good memories while performing? I haven't been for long, just a little over a year. But maybe when I had the honor to perform at the Hard Rock Cafe in Phoenix, AZ. A lot of my friends came out, people who believed in me. It meant a lot.
Q)What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started performing? What are you glad you DIDN'T know?
A) I can't really say I wish I knew this, or I wish I knew that, it was all a learning experience and i'm happy with what I've learned so far. The shows just keep getting better and better each time.
Q) You have an awesome new CD out!!! Where can folks get one? How can connect with you and purchase your music?
A) You can digitally download it on iTunes, Bandcamp, Google Music store, Amazon mp3, or you can stream it on iheart radio, spotify, and xbox music. Physical copies I have on me all the time, and I'm currently working on a website where you can order them.
Q) How did you know that music was your passion? Who taught music to you?
A) To be honest, music has been always there, whether it was powwow, ceremony songs, country, Hip-Hop, or just listening to a bird. It's always been in my life. Hip hop was a huge influence to me, the lifestyle, the way it made your head bob, the stories in the songs, and the wordplay structure. I watched my older cousin who was in a group called “Tribal Live” in the early 2000's, succeed as indigenous people in hip hop. They really paved a way for me.
Q)If all music was outlawed, what would you be doing with your life? Why?
A) I'd be in Jail because there's now way you could take away music from me. Not even just hip hop, but ceremony songs and powwow songs are big in my life.
WATCH A NATAANII MEANS VIDEO
Q) How does Native American identity and culture appear in your music? How does Native tradition shape your songs?
A) Identity, that's a broad word for people in my generation. We identify with so much, whether it be powwow, traditional, mainstream music. As a young kid growing up in Chinle, AZ, in the middle of the Navajo Nation, hip hop was the main influence for us, it was there. But so was our peoples songs, song and dance, even powwow. My father always took us back to South Dakota every summer to Sundance, and those songs play a huge role in my life also. But for my generation, I can reach them through my music, through this hip hop, tell them of our people, because they never taught us in school about any of that. They never taught us the lies the american government told us. And my generation can relate to me, because I do go to college and experience that lifestyle off the rez too. hence the title ‘2 Worlds'.
Q) Why do you think Native American music is so popular with other cultures? What makes our music unique and important?
A) Traditional music is popular because the rest of the world still see us as “dances with wolves” type Indians in modern day. They romanticize us, and think we're still in the past. But there is another life in Indian country the rest of the world does not see, I depict that in my music. I tell those stories of the modern day Indian kid doing what he has to do in today's world.
Q) What are some of the many accomplishments and awards you've achieved through your music? What do they mean to you?
A) I get love from my people, and acknowledgement from them. A nod and a handshake, them saying “I relate to that song bro…” is all I need. But my album has only been out for a few months. I'll be submitting to a few award shows soon, and Indian Country today media named my album as One of the best in 2013. That was awesome of them.
Q) What else are you enthusiastic about?
A) I'm just happy to be doing music that people actually listen too, that people want to hear.
Q) What would you like to tell us that we don't already know about you? About your music?
A) Just take a listen to the album, look me up on youtube, listen to my lyrics, and you'll see, you'll hear what i'm saying.
Q) Thank you for sharing with us. Many people all over the world admired and respected your late father, Russell Means, and will be thrilled to see your strength and success.
A) Thank you guys.
Dr. Dawn Karima is a Native American Music Award Winner for her CD, THE DESIRE OF NATIONS (www.cdbaby.com/honeydawnkarima)
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