A small Haisla First Nation reserve in Northwest BC is where Indigenous hip-hop duo Snotty Nose Rez Kids decided they had a voice that needed to be heard. Darren "Young D" Metz and Quinton "Yung Trybez" Nyce have gone from writing poetry in elementary school and recording on a cheap desktop mic in Kitamaat Village to making politically charged anthems and joining the 2018 short list of Polaris Music Prize nominees. Snotty Nose Rez Kids' success has come from nothing more than hard work and remaining true to themselves.
Their sophomore release, The Average Savage, caught the ear of the hundreds of critics, radio hosts and music industry icons that comprise the Polaris Music Prize jury, who were impressed by their strong message of pride, integrity and honouring land and self.
"We make music for Indigenous youth, to make them feel proud of who they are and where they come from," Yung Trybez tells Exclaim! It's a crucial message for a segregated community that is often put in a place to feel less than. With a lingering and uncomfortable racism often being projected from bordering Kitamaat Village towns, some feel their music is "anti-white." Young D disagrees. "We say no, our music is pro-Indigenous, but some people have different opinions of us." Both artists are self-proclaimed storytellers and are certain they have more to offer the world and their community than just working a regular 9 to 5 job, which in an industrial town like Kitamaat, is what their prospects look like.
SNRK were aware early on that The Average Savage was special, and an important part of their movement — they charmingly refer to it as their "little precious" — but were surprised to be recognized on the Polaris short list. "We never thought that this album would be this special for other people. We knew it was special, but never expected the short list," Young D explains. "[That] also goes to show that hard work pays off." Almost exactly one year after the release of The Average Savage, they will be performing at the Polaris gala, "a very surreal feeling."
SNRK are activists by nature: warriors for their land, water and the territory that have sustained their families for generations. Connecting art with political views on their most recent video for "The Warriors," they say they are "just putting their voice on a movement that's already been there" while fighting against Kinder Morgan and the expansion of the Western Canadian oil pipeline.
"I connect land and identity as one. Being a warrior to me means standing up for something that can't stand up for itself," Yung Trybez explains. "Being a warrior to me in this day and age means is keeping our land pure and keeping true to yourself and your spirit."
Although they've never met the Canadian Prime Minister, who is responsible for purchasing the Trans Mountain Pipeline with plans to expand through BC, Trybez says he "seems like a real dick," but if he had the opportunity to speak with Justin Trudeau he would ask "Why he's lying to himself and the [Canadian] people?" Young D adds, "I'd also ask him about the Haida Gwaii tattoo on his right arm and what it means to him now."
Snotty Nose Rez Kids' upcoming album, Rez Bangers & KoolaPops, is set to drop at the end of October, and sees the duo showing off an alternate side from the land-protecting warriors fans are used to.
"This one is more of an album where we can have fun with who we are," Trybez explains. "We're just showing our pride and having fun with it." Yung D adds, "It's the other side of our personality, not so serious. Completely different from The Average Savage. This one is just us being us and were having fun with it."
Snotty Nose Rez Kids also try to draw parallels with people who aren't from the Rez by adding features from artists with different cultural backgrounds. Rez Bangers & KoolaPops enlists features from Toronto crew the Sorority, Vancouver artist Brevner and Indo-Canadian duo Cartel Madras out of Calgary to show that "we are all relatable" says Young D.
Although this album will be unlike anything they've released to date, one thing Trybez describes will remain the same: "Rez Bangers & KoolaPops comes from the heart, comes from who we are, and comes from and for the Rez."