Snotty Nose Rez Kids smash Indigenous stereotypes one club banger at a time 

Buzzed-about Haisla rap group hits the WSSF stage on April 10

click to enlarge CUTLINE CREDIT - HAISLA HIP HOP Snotty Nose Rez Kids incorporate their First Nations’ heritage into their trap-influenced sound.
  • Cutline credit
  • HAISLA HIP HOP Snotty Nose Rez Kids incorporate their First Nations’ heritage into their trap-influenced sound.

There is an inevitable point during the Snotty Nose Rez Kids' high-octane live show when the crowd stops viewing the duo as solely an Indigenous rap group—although they are unapologetically that—but simply as a talented rap group, period.

"The crowds are starting to get a lot more diverse, and the reaction is the same every time: It's loud and it's very, very energetic," says Darren "Young D" Metz, one half of the group, alongside Quinton "Yung Trybez" Nyce. "We want people to not only understand where we're coming from, but also feel it."

A lot more people have been feeling the Snotty Nose Rez Kids after a banner year that saw them short-listed for the Polaris Music Prize and nominated for a Juno.

"It was a game-changing year, definitely," says Metz.

Hailing from a small Haisla Nation reservation in northwestern B.C., Nyce and Metz grew up writing poetry in elementary school and recording fuzzy anthems on a cheap desktop mic. To say they offer a fresh perspective compared to many of their contemporaries in the Canadian hip-hop scene would be a vast understatement. Blending trap beats with intense lyricism that touts messages of pride in who they are and where they came from, the Snotty Nose Rez Kids are a breath of fresh air in an industry that has for too long held down Indigenous artists. Activists by nature, their songs are often politically charged, like "The Warriors," which speaks out fervently against the Kinder Morgan Pipeline expansion.

In an age when the solipsistic Soundcloud rapper and his nihilistic drug-soaked anthems reign supreme, SNRK, as they are known, stand out exactly because of the social message in their lyrics.

"I think lately with social media and that kind of stuff, the sounds people are looking for have gone in a completely different direction," says Nyce. "For us, we've been doing this for a while, and we can only talk about (issues) from our perspective ... At the end of the day, we can only be ourselves."

Challenging long-held Indigenous stereotypes, SNRK are acutely aware of the risk of being tokenized as the First Nations' rap group with a bit of buzz. They were critical, for instance, of the Junos for lumping their acclaimed sophomore record, The Average Savage, into the Indigenous Music Album of the Year category (they wound up losing to classical musician Jeremy Dutcher). And yet, at the same time, they recognize that without that category, they likely would not have been nominated at all.

It's a fine line to walk as Indigenous artists who are fiercely proud of their heritage, yet want to be treated like any other hip-hop group—First Nations or otherwise.

"I have thought about being booked as the Indigenous act or being put onstage with other Indigenous artists at festivals and stuff like that, but I think we're at a point in our careers where we can be booked as an Indigenous act and as a dope-ass rap group, not just because we're Indigenous," Nyce says.

Known for their high-energy performances, Metz says the group takes pride in their stage presence knowing it's the quickest way to convert the uninitiated.

"We know if we want energy from the crowds, we have to give that energy, so they can give it back," he explains. "A lot of our live shows is where we win new fans, so we take our shows as seriously as when we go into the studio."

SNRK's latest album, Trapline, is due out May 10, and features an eclectic mix of featured artists that speaks to the group's diverse influences.

"A lot of our features are from people from different ethnicities, and it shows that we're all not so different," Metz says. "We share the same vision, we feel the same way. It's just a vibe."

The Snotty Nose Rez Kids play a free show on the Skier's Plaza mainstage as part of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival on April 10 at 3 p.m.

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