“Step up to the scene from a small rez town, they know I will never fail.” – “Never Fail” off Red Man
Hope is an indigenous MC representing one of the 56,000 Coast Salish people residing in the U.S. and on Canada’s West Coast. Following the traditional narrative of decline told by American history, the Coast Salish people were displaced when European settlers with religious interests seized the land. As a result, their languages, culture, and way of life deteriorated. In what they consider their most important work-to-date, Hope and his all-indigenous hip hop collective Status Krew, are juxtaposing their lives as modern indigenous men with the stories of their ancestors on the album, Red Man.
In the Storyhive visual created for Red Man, Hope is a displaced Native man wandering along the coast of an inlet village in Vancouver, British Columbia coping with the changes imposed by modern society on his once-familiar home. As he chants “red man” in an effort to reclaim ownership over this popularized epithet, his journey, he finds, doesn’t get any easier.
Over a ghostly trinket box melody, Hope broadcasts the harmful self-talk of two opposing identities, that of the indigenous man, and that of the “red man” living in modern culture. The video splits to images of dancing figures moving like skeletons in a closet. They are wearing masks typical of many ceremonial meetings in Coastal Salish culture.
“Rage” and “Life Givers” are the two songs that assert the indigenous man’s presence with the greatest lyrical force, creating a campaign that speaks to the larger focus of the project. Rage manifests in unhealthy ways on reservations, namely in violence against native women, which Hope speaks to on “Life Givers.” In some cases, women are murdered at ten times the national average. This is a persistent problem and is only getting worse for these indigenous communities. Without the lifelines of these tribes, language and culture will die. “Rage” offers the counterpoint — kill verses, not people.
Status Krew is in the company of other Canadian clubs that have spurred movements with their art, such as A Tribe Called Red and their youth culture movement, and MadChild’s biker-modeled positivity movement, Battle Axe Warriors. These movements seek to unify and empower that which is left of cultures once deemed invisible and to provide alternative coping mechanisms. Red Man is a genre-influencing project that is capable of doing the same.