Growing up on the Yavapai-Apache Nation’s Reservation, I remember playing in the backyard of my cousin’s house. We used to climb all over the light brown community building whenever there was a big community feast. As night fell, we would all gather at the small administration building for cultural class. We would sit in class with dirt painted faces, messy hair, and snot all over our shirts. We were living our best lives while growing up on the reservation.
Darren “Young D” Metz and Quinton “Yung Trybez” Nyce grew up in a similar tight-knit Indigenous community that inspired them to come to their group name, Snotty Nose Rez Kids.
“I remember running around on the rez all snotty nose, snot all over my sleeves, never really had a napkin or a parent who looked after you because we looked after each other,” said Yung Trybez.
Snotty Nose Rez Kids is a hip-hop duo from the Haisla Nation Reserve in Kitamaat Village, British Columbia, composed of rappers Darren “Young D” Metz and Quinton “Yung Trybez” Nyce. They currently live in Vancouver, Canada.
The duo grew up together on their reserve, and as the years went on, they both got closer. So did their families.
“We lived like five doors down from each other out in the village, and we grew up playing ball together,” said Young D. “You could come to my place and be hungry, go into the fridge or the freezer and cook up something. So yeah, we go way back.”
The Snotty Nose Rez Kids was born in 2016, taking inspiration from artists such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and E-40. Since then, the duo has become one of many voices that bring a glimpse into the life and issues surrounding their Indigenous lands. In doing so, many different Indigenous peoples connect to their music on a personal level.
Young D began writing poetry and short stories in his younger days, and Yung Trybez was always a storyteller. They both took inspiration from each other while finding a sanctuary in Hip-Hop.
“Whenever you’re going through a rough time or good times, you can always write about the experiences you’re going through in life,” said Yung Trybez. “I think writing was religious, a safe space. kind of our escape, our haven that we’re able to go to, fall back on when times got hard or good. We just go write about whatever we’re going through.”
At the beginning of 2017, the group released their self-titled debut album, and just nine months later, The Average Savage was released. The Average Savage has won Best Hip Hop Act at the Western Canadian Music Awards, landing them a Polaris Prize Top-ten Shortlist and receiving a nomination for Best Indigenous Music Album from the Juno’s.
In 2019 Snotty Nose Rez Kids released their strongest album, Trapline, which centered on their Nation’s teaching and creating a marginalized bridge to other indigenous experiences. Trapline was viewed over 800,00 times and streamed over 3 million times.
For 20 weeks, the album was on the Earshot Top 10 Hip-Hop charts, also recognized as Breakout Artist at the 2019 Western Canadian Music Awards. In 2019 the duo toured with over 80 dates across Canada, Australia, Mexico, the US, the UK, and the Netherlands.
At the end of their 2022 Westcoast tour, they received news that they had won the 2022 Western Canadian Music Awards for Rap & Hip Hop and Indigenous Artist of the year.
In Snotty Nose Rez Kids’ second album, The Average Savage, the duo addresses how society has portrayed the Indigenous community.
Media outlets and society spin a false narrative that Indigenous peoples are politically weak. During the presidential election, CNN had labeled the Indigenous community “Something Else.”
Schools such as Port Neches-Groves High School in Texas refuse to address the problem in how they portray Indigenous communities. Their cheer team, who call themselves “Indianetttes,” wear war bonnets and chant, “Scalp ’em Indians, Scalp ’em,” during their school rallies and while marching down the Magic Kingdom at Disneyland.
One parent stated in a Facebook post, “This country belongs to us! The Indians lost, so the Indians don’t have a say in this. This is America! We own them, and we own their culture.”
I’m no Racist, But…Skit includes audio from an Oprah Winfrey episode about racism in 1992. “He’s no racist, he says. But he just doesn’t understand why Native Americans are in a tizzy. He says he thinks protests over mascots are, in a word, ridiculous. Why?”
Oprah introduced one of her guests. “Utterly ridiculous. Protesting in this country is not over the Native American people. One thing I can say is I’m not a racist. I just feel like it’s getting ridiculous. It’s been 500 years since Columbus came into this country. Let it go; everybody lives together. why? To me, it’s ridiculous,” stated one of her guests.
Growing Pains is the next song that follows after the I’m no Racist Skit, and it explains how the duo gets through systematic racism.
“The whole concept behind that album, The Average Savage, is about how they’ve picked and painted a picture for us. And they portrayed us in the light they wanted to portray us. They portrayed us as savages. And they acted as if they were not the bad people and were the victims to us. You know, when in fact, it’s the other way around. The skit I’m not a racist, and he’s calling us savages. He’s calling us Indians. He’s calling us all the racist things in the book. But then, in the end, he says, I’m not a racist. Though, you know, that’s kind of what The Average Savage was, like, letting the world know that there’s nothing average about us. And we are going to be savage as hell while we tell you the story,'” said Yung Trybez.
Reflecting on one of my interviews with a youth from my Nation, who stated that they were “embarrassed to be American Indian, because they would get made fun of or picked on at school by the students and teachers.” This young youth is very active in their community and is very rich in their culture. But when they leave the Reservation, they feel that they have to hide their culture.
“The Average Savage was addressing all of that and letting the world know there’s more to us than what you guys think, even though it’s not for us to tell you and correct that. Who else is going to do it? So we always have to let our peers, our relations, know that you are powerful and everything you could put your mind to. And that’s kind of like how we would have made it through life. We just know we’re capable of doing anything we set our minds to. And that’s what makes us like Savage,” said Yung Trybez
The Snotty Nose Rez Kids continue to use their voice as a way to shed light on how it is growing up on their reserve. It doesn’t matter what Native lands you may be from; Young D and Yung Trybez say they will continue to help give a voice to those who need it through their music.
My grandmother once told me, “No matter where you are, go out and learn everything you can. No matter if it’s your culture or language, just learn it.” Since then, I have learned how to speak the Yavapai and Apache languages and learn different styles of dressmaking, bead works, and moccasin making.
I am currently in the beginning stages of learning the Hebrew language and learning the Paiute culture here in northern Nevada, as well. I’m ensuring I keep my culture alive with my daughter.
Yung Trybez comes from a family that danced, held ceremonies, and was a part of the land defenders for his Nation. He would go hunting with his dad, which helped provide for the community.
“We’re starting to get our culture back. Potlatch is part of our ceremony in Canada. It was huge. It was our way of doing business and was a way of trading. Communities, tribes, and clans came together. There was a lot of dancing, many ceremonies, and a lot of singing. The government forbids us to do that. And if we did, we would face jail time. So, they stripped us of all of that. Our people took a big hit on that. Our languages, our songs, and dances are now being revitalized,” said Yung Trybez.
When we lose a loved one, we can feel it throughout the community, and you have each other to lean on for that support. Young D and his partner had lost many family members during the pandemic.
Life After is their fourth album released last October, which explores how the pandemic had taken a toll on their mental health and issues that impacted their lands and people in their Nation in Canada.
“That was the toughest shit we ever had to go through. That’s where some of the songs came from on Life After. There’s a lyric from the song After Dark that can sum up for me, it probably will be, “I know that the sun shines bright after dark.” No matter how shitty the day is, tomorrow’s a new day, just hoping for tomorrow. It’s like, letting the optimism of tomorrow be the foundation of today.” said Young D.
Media has created a false narrative of Indigenous peoples. But the one thing that some don’t want to see is what runs deep in these lands are the ones that have pride in who they are. We are the ones who take time out of our day to show how much we love our lands and culture — the ones who keep our culture alive and our ancestors proud.
“It was beautiful. I know the media tries to portray it with all the negative statistics and all that. Whether it be like alcohol abuse or substance abuse, suicide, weight, grades and stuff like that, but, you know, it was beautiful for us. Our family didn’t just raise us, the community raised us. We all looked out for each other. It was such a small town, you didn’t have to lock your doors. We have a lot of some of our fondest memories from growing up as a kid on the Rez. We wouldn’t change it for the world,” said Young D.
Even though I no longer live on my reservation, I still care deeply about my culture or lands. We sometimes have to leave our homelands to help our homelands.
I admire the Snotty Nose Rez Kids because of what they do, they do it for their community and future generations. No matter where they are in the world, they will always have their community in their hearts.
“We are the Indigenous peoples, and we will wear our hair long, speak our language, and always overcome what life brings us.”
Alejandra Rubio is a visual artist who works with photography and mix-media. She embeds herself into different cultures and subcultures to share their voices, experiences, and inflections, giving viewers a respectful glimpse into their unique worldviews, concerns, and aspirations. She is a member of the Yavapai-Apache Nation and grew up in Camp Verde, a rural river valley in northern Arizona.
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