Beat Nation – Hip Hop as Indigenous Culture

rotating images of Beat Nation artists' work

This site focuses on the development of hip hop culture within Aboriginal youth communities and its influence on cultural production.

There has been some criticism over the years by older community members who see this influence as a break from tradition and the movement of the culture towards a pop-based mainstream assimilation. But in Beat Nation we see just the opposite happening. These artists are not turning away from the traditions as much as searching for new ways into them. Hip hop is giving youth new tools to rediscover First Nations culture. What is most striking about this work is how much of it embraces the traditional within its development.

In many ways, the greatest achievement of Haida master carver Bill Reid was in taking the carving tradition from wood, silver and argillite into other sculptural media. The artists in Beat Nation do the same thing in their media of spray paint, live mix video, turntables, and beat boxes. There is a strong sense of activism present in the work and recognition of the responsibility the artists hold towards their communities.

At grunt we have been committed to making quality First Nations contemporary art available online through the support of Heritage Canada’s Gateway Fund program. I regret to say this is the last web site we will produce for this program, as it is set to disappear in March 2010. The eight sites grunt has produced through Gateway have allowed us to develop a capacity for website production and to get a vast array of First Nations artists online in curated, themed presentations. We will endeavor to find new ways to continue this production.

Much of the credit for these sites must go to the fine web design and construction by Archer Pechawis. Thanks to him and to curators Tania Willard and Skeena Reece for their work as well as to the previous curators of these sites: Dana Claxton, Daina Warren, Archer Pechawis and Elaine Moyah. Also thanks to Mary Ann Anderson for her administrative support, Hillary Wood for her editing, and to the writers who have allowed their work to be reproduced here. Finally, thanks to the artists themselves for their participation in this project and our previous sites.

Beat Nation – Hip Hop as Indigenous Culture is funded through Heritage Canada's Gateway Fund with support from Canadian Culture Online, a program dedicated to making First Nations cultural material available to all Canadians. We gratefully acknowledge the support from the Gateway Fund for making all this possible. Their continued support over the last four years has had a strong effect on our organization.

Enjoy these sites and check out brunt, the print and online journal of our activities. Together they represent a rich resource of contemporary work in Canada.

Glenn Alteen
Producer, Beat Nation