‘Screaming Indian’ is the freshest track to hit the Hip-Hop scene in a long time. Staying true to their Indigenous and immigrant roots, its creators, Juno and Polaris nominated Haisla rappers Snotty Nose Rez Kids and Surrey based South Asian trapwave producer Skinny Local, have turned out a bombshell. They spoke to G20 about the release of their new track ‘Screaming Indian’. Excerpts:
Q. What is the story behind the title of this song?
A. The title ‘Screaming Indian’ was an idea based on the erstwhile logo of the Atlanta Braves baseball team, which was the ‘Screaming Savage’. The team was forced to retire it because of the outrage of Indigenous activists who viewed the logo as racist and harmful to our people. Even though the Braves ‘retired’ the logo in 1989, they tried to bring it back in 2013 as a batting practice logo. This element of deep-seated ignorance that prevails despite the best efforts of people from our communities, sparked the idea of the title of this song for us. The incident reminded us that we need to continue to do this work, for us to move forward. The world we live in moves fast and people forget everything quickly. We need to remind ourselves of where we come from, while also constantly reminding the world of what it has done to our land and people. In this song, we reclaim and embody the ‘Screaming Indian’.
Q. What was the inspiration behind the song?
A. To our knowledge there has not been an Indian and ‘Indian’ (Native / Indigenous) mash-up in Hip-Hop ever before. It seems like an obvious decision that Indigenous people and Indian people would collaborate as their histories are intertwined in a major colonial historical moment where, thinking he had reached India, Columbus dubbed the people he sought to conquer and eradicate, ‘Indians.’ It is also a painful history and perhaps one that seems less obvious for collaboration and partnership. While people in India have endured conditions similar to those of Indigenous people, and India was certainly part of the European colonial project, India and Indigenous nations do not otherwise have much shared history. Nevertheless, Indians from India and ‘Indians’ from Turtle Island and the Americas share a legacy that began with a misnomer coined by Christopher Columbus. It is from that standpoint that Vancouver-based Indian label, Snakes x Ladders, producer Skinny Local, and the Indigenous duo, Snotty Nose Rez Kids, have teamed up to release ‘Screaming Indian’.
Q. How did the collaboration come about?
A. The idea of the collaboration came to life when we played at a celebratory event with the ‘Delhi 2 Dublin’ musical group in 2017, for the newly elected NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. We then played two more shows with the group, where we built a connection with Tarun Nayar, who is a part of another group called Desi Sub Culture. Tarun really appreciated the message behind our music and as he is a really talented producer, the collaboration made sense for us as fresh artists on the music scene.
Q. Who produced the track? What was it like working together?
A. ‘Screaming Indian’ originated from a jam session in the Snakes x Ladders studio almost two years ago between Snotty Nose Rez Kids and the Delhi 2 Dublin producer, Tarun Nayar. It was put on the backseat for a while, but was again picked up in 2020 by the Surrey-based South Asian trapwave producer, Skinny Local, who breathed new life into the song and brought it back to Snotty Nose Rez Kids to re-record. The subject matter is fitting because it was written at a time when we were working on our album TRAPLINE, which was about building bridges with other marginalized communities. ‘Screaming Indian’ does just that- it is a joyous and rowdy celebration of solidarity that feels timelier with each passing day.
Q. Is there a story you are trying to convey with the song and through the lyrics?
A. Make no mistake, this is not a government-sanctioned display of ‘multiculturalism’. This is an in-your-face vision of what is actually happening right now in our streets and neighbourhoods. It is real, raw and inspiring. It is our attempt at giving the finger to government-sanctioned racism, as can be seen through the potlatch ban, which outlawed a traditional gift-giving ceremony celebrated by the Native Americans in the 19th century. Through ‘Screaming Indian’, we are unabashedly reclaiming our voice, respecting the creator, and celebrating our culture and identity. The tongue in cheek lyrics like, “Imma run for prime minister and still won’t pay my taxes”, fly in the face of all the racism that Indigenous people have endured through colonialism. It shows that Snotty Nose Rez Kids are not afraid to shy away from deep subject matter by infusing it with playfulness and jest. Soaked in elements of the instrumentalism that defines Indian music, ‘Screaming Indian’ is about claiming power and space for two marginalized groups of people through hip-hop.
‘Screaming Indian’ represents a blending of cultures between the Native American/ Indigenous and Indian community, and is fresh and raw. The video features Garba dancers and Native American Pow Wow dancers ensuring a creative and colourful yet thoroughly impactful vibe. The track is available on all leading music platforms.
The interviewer is a lifestyle columnist and blogger at www.nooranandchawla.com. She can be found on Instagram@nooranandchawla.