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James Blood keeps it raw

Hip hop artist James Blood of TrueRez Crew and RedStar is one of the foremost native hip hop artists in Haudenosaunee territory today. James sees hip hop as a “voice for the voiceless.” While hip hop began as a youth culture among black and latino youth in the South Bronx and Harlem in the 1970’s, James is part of the cutting edge of hip hop culture in Six Nations and he’s adding his own flavour to hip hop culture, rhyming about the struggles of being native.

James Blood keeps it raw

By Wes Day

Kick it on the one
these cats wanna play chief,
just keep it on the hum.
I don’t respect all this new swag.
I only make music for the slums.
It’s like thats what y’all wanna look like if you got to meet KRS one?
Or the god Rakim?
I stay hot kid. Keep it poppin. Creating. Mix taping.
– James Blood

Hip hop artist James Blood of TrueRez Crew and RedStar is one of the foremost native hip hop artists in Haudenosaunee territory today. James sees hip hop as a “voice for the voiceless.” While hip hop began as a youth culture among black and latino youth in the South Bronx and Harlem in the 1970’s, James is part of the cutting edge of hip hop culture in Six Nations and he’s adding his own flavour to hip hop culture, rhyming about the struggles of being native.

For James, hip hop has been a part of his life since he was a youth. Growing up in the housing projects of inner city Toronto, James says that he could “just go outside and hip hop was there” – he would see “guys rappin’” and “graffiti everywhere.” It was being in all these places and around these people that molded the young James’ mentality and style of rhyming.

James was placed in a group home around the age of 13. He not only moved constantly but often got locked out and would have to stay on the streets all night. When describing his experience in group homes and with Children’s Aid Society (“CAS”), James had this to say: “There were racist people running it… the white kids were taken out to buy clothes while me and this other native kid got nothing. They watched us and treated us like animals. You think like that and you don’t trust no one.”

James eventually decided to leave CAS. Although he never knew his mother or father, he found his way to Six Nations where his family comes from. It was here that he connected with his friend and cousin, Hoodoo, who started Intertribal Records, a Native American record label based out of Six Nations. After working together and developing a mutual respect for one another’s art, James and Hoodoo combined their musical skills and formed RedStar. When asked about what he does, he said: “I just do what I do man. I am native. That’s what I am. I was born in the world like that.”

According to James, the hip hop scene is coming back in full effect at Six Nations. Living at Six Nations, James sees “native kids who are inspired by hip hop when they see other native emcees comin’ out” and this is “just building and adding on to the whole culture of hip hop”.

“Rhymin about being native and rhymin about the struggles and all that, a lot of cats are gettin on that. I think it’s good cause it’s a voice for the voiceless. You could say so much on a rap record. I see all these native kids who are inspired by hip hop when they see other native MCs commin out and it’s just building and adding on to the whole culture of hip hop as a whole whether its negative or positive.”

When it comes to picking a hip hop style to listen to or to practice, James says, “You can pick and choose the path you wanna walk.” He describes his own style as “street oriented with some influence of the rez” and offered the Two Row Times a little sample:

All I do is kick facts son
Hold it down for my natives since day one
Word up 6 Nay Son
the T Dot mega city where I grew
I been through
all over the blocks and avenues.

James’ style is raw and from the streets, but “I wouldn’t call my style gangster rap. I’m not a gangster. It’s street oriented with some influence of the rez. Some people take it too far with gangster rap. Probably had a couple people acting the fool but everybody has a brain you know? You can pick and choose the path you wanna walk. You could like gangster rap and be a university student.”

Whatever style you choose, James believes “rawness” is the soul of hip hop and that’s the music he wants to hear. To hear more from James check out RedStar at http://www.reverbnation.com/redstar39 and Intertribal Records http://www.reverbnation.com/hoodoomusic

We’ve also put a selection of James’ songs and freestyles on the Two Row Times webpage at www.tworowtimes.com to accompany this article. Check it out and stay tuned for more coverage of native hip-hop in our pages and on our website. You can listen to the full audio of our interview with James by following @rezquestpod on Twitter.

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