When we chatted by phone with Quinton "Yung Trybez" Nyce and Darren "Young D" Metz — the indigenous hip-hop duo known as Snotty Nose Rez Kids — they were just a couple hundred miles away in Austin for SXSW festivities. Even though they were thrilling South By’s audiences with their finely-tuned rap skills and thought-provoking lyrics, they had an eye on their first-ever Houston date, an April 25 show set for Warehouse Live.
“We’re really looking forward to it because we are heavily inspired by southern music and southern hip-hop in particular, from Texas to Louisiana to Atlanta to Tennessee,” Young D shared. “Like, I know Austin isn’t Houston, but when I landed here in Texas, I was bumping DJ Screw because I wanted to get the feel of Texas.”
That is what’s called “putting some respect on it” and Young D and Yung Trybez are not only in the practice of giving respect but also getting their own. The Vancouver-based First Nations duo is killing it at home, where they’ve been shortlisted for Polaris Music Prize and Juno Awards on the strength of albums The Average Savage, TRAPLINE and their latest record, Life After. They’ve only been active since 2016 but they both suggest their brand of hip-hop has been a lifetime in the making.
“Hip-hop has always been around us, we were kind of raised with it playing in the background at all times. All our older cousins used to listen to it, especially West Coast hip-hop. For us it just came naturally,” Yung Trybez said. “And obviously, you know, hip-hop is like the music of the oppressed so it was a perfect way to tell our story. I know there’s other music that is like that, punk and blues, but for us it was just not accessible. We never had instruments around us growing up. Our families weren’t really into music like that, but for us, our voice was our instrument and always has been. It was such an easy way for us to get our feet wet in music.”
“I know for us, we’ve been obsessed with hip-hop from like the time we learned how to talk,” Young D said. “Our uncles and aunties, they would all listen to it and that’s why we choose hip-hop. There are people that came before us like Rezofficial and War Party, there’s definitely people down here in the States that were making noise, know what I mean? “
As Young D alluded, Snotty Nose Rez Kids aligns with other indigenous hip-hop acts. The group fully embraces its culture so we asked if the music - with song titles like “Creator Made an Animal,” “Skoden” and “Boujee Natives” — is mostly for fellow “rez kids.”
“First and foremost, we make music for ourselves,” Yung Trybez said. “We’ve always used it as a healing tool to get through traumas and life experiences and stuff like that. Secondly, we make music for people that grew up like us, right? Like-minded, same situations, come from the same backgrounds and believe in the same things. So, when you listen to our music, you can tell that it resonates with res kids, people that grew up on the res, people that grew up on their lands and are fighting for their rights to this day.
“At the same time, our allies are right there with us,” he continued. “The people that want to learn, you can learn through our music. We don’t have to sit down and have a 45-hour long conversation. You can just listen to our music if you want to learn a thing or two about us. So, we make music for everybody, people that are like-minded.”
The lyrics might focus on matters important to indigenous people, with songs like “The Warriors” calling out the Canadian government and its plan to expand a pipeline into indigenous lands. The rapping might include vernacular associated with reservation life. But SNRK’s songs reflect on human themes that cross cultures. On songs like “No Jesus Piece” they take on organized religion and authority the same way a punk act would. "Something Else" is your standard MC boast with a twist. They say their music bridges gaps between indigenous cultures and culture at-large.
“The album TRAPLINE was just that, we made that album to bridge gaps between different people from different ethnic backgrounds and just different backgrounds in general,” Yung Trybez said. “So, we had music with people from Australia, we had music with people from the Black community, the LGBTQ community, and we try to represent everybody within our music while reminding people that we can only speak from our own context. We can only tell our own story, we can only paint our own picture. So, what we did was we brought other people on our albums to tell their story.”
Telling the indigenous American story has gained heightened interest lately thanks to the popular Hulu television show Reservation Dogs and media like The Red Nation Podcast. It’s good to see people seeking better understandings of cultures outside their circles. In the rush to embrace them though sometimes appreciation breeds appropriation. We asked the band if that’s a concern for them as their music becomes more popular.
“You know, as of right now we just wanna tell our story, you know what I’m saying?” Young D said. He thinks it’s okay “When it comes to when you say words like ‘neechie’ or ‘minay,’ whatever it may be, as long as you know where it comes from and you say it with respect.”
“Us, as indigenous people, we’re natural born story tellers and it was only a matter of time before our stories would start to reach the masses, whether it’s hip-hop, whether it’s TV, whether it’s movies, art,” he continued. “All we wanna do is tell our stories and we don’t want to just tell our stories, we want them to be heard. What better way than when it comes from the source?”
We agree that the characters portrayed on Reservation Dogs are hip-hop heads. Is this the new growth movement in hip-hop? We ask Young D if res life will be the new “coast” for rap and if there are fellow indigenous rap acts that can help grow the genre.
“A lot of indigenous artists and bands, they’ve always existed, like way before we came along. All we’re trying to do is just carry the torch and get that much further to help set up the next generations that want to come after us,” Young D said. “Like I said, we all just want to tell our stories. Like for us, it just happened to be hip-hop, it just kind of came natural for us. We know some bands that just go hard with it, whether they’re folks singers or country singers and rock singers, you know what I mean? And they all bring it and they do it in their own, beautiful way just like we do.”
“There’s a big community of artists and musicians from where we come from in Canada, not even just Vancouver but all across Canada, there are artists that do the festival circuits with us and we see them pretty much everywhere we go,” Yung Trybez added. “And we all kind of ride that festival circuit in the summer and it’s everything from bluegrass to rock to punk to a lot of rappers to pop music. There’s indigenous artists that are doing what we’re doing, like the same message that they’re portraying, in all different genres.”
“I feel like a lot of indigenous people, especially the youth, a lot of us just naturally gravitate towards hip-hop because, if you really think about hip-hop culture and indigenous culture, they’re a lot more similar than people think. If you think of the four elements in hip-hop, you have the emcee. Well, we have our storytellers. You have the b-boys and the b-girls — we’ve got our dancers,” Young D explained. “You have the deejay — well, we have our drummers. You have media artists and we have our carvers and our painters, we have our beaders and jewelers. So, they really do go hand in hand.
“It’s like we said, we just wanna leave our mark and build on that legacy and just continue to carry the torch and push the boundaries,” Young D said, then passed the mic to Young Trybez who added, “And I feel like with us, we’re doing something that hasn’t been done before as far as hip-hop goes and we’re letting it be known that we’re trying to set the standard for what hip-hop should be when it comes to Native hip-hop or Native rappers on where they should be in the industry. We deserve to be up there with everybody else.”
“It’s a grind for sure. A lot of people, when it comes to the history of North America and indigenous people, they don’t really wanna hear what we’ve got to say. But it was only a matter of time before the stories came out,” Young D noted. “We had an OG tell us — his name is Maestro Fresh Wes, shout out to him — he said something to us that we’ll never forget, that we carry to this day. He said don’t make records, make history. Even if we’re the first ones through the wall, and the first ones through the wall get the bloodiest, hey, we’re willing to do that because we just want to do our part while we’re here.”
The duo was in Austin, getting their shine at one of the world’s preeminent music gatherings. Paste Magazine was there too and named Snotty Nose Rez Kids one of the 20 best live acts from this year’s festival, alongside buzz bands like Wet Leg and veterans like Houston’s own Bun B. That made us all the more hype for Snotty Nose Rez Kids’ standing date at Warehouse Live.
“Just bring a lot of energy because we bring a lot of energy to pretty much every show, whether it’s 10 people in the room to 1,500 people in the room to 5,000 people in the room,” Yung Trybez said. “We bring that same amount of energy no matter what it is and we do a lot of crowd response, back and forth, we feed off them, they feed off us and mosh pits, call and response, maybe some crowd surfing. But yeah, it’s gonna be crazy.”
“The one thing I will say to add onto that is we make it our mission and our goal, especially if there’s people in the crowd that have never seen us before, you may not know who we are, you may not have liked us before, but come see us live and we’ll make you a fan,” Young D promised. “We know a lot of people that may rap better than us, they may sing better than us, they may have better beats. But the one thing we do know, we’re pretty fucking confident when it comes to putting on a live show.”
Snotty Nose Rez Kids, 8 p.m. Monday, April 25, 2022 at The Greenroom at Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel. Doors at 7 p.m. for this all ages show. $15-$18.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.