American Routes Shortcuts: Supaman
Christian Parish Takes the Gun, also known as Supaman, is an Apsáalooke rapper from Crow Agency, Montana. Supaman grew up in and out of foster care with alcoholic parents. He turned to hip-hop to escape from struggles he faced on the reservation. His music draws on a connection from urban style and words to cultural and spiritual life as a Native American. Supaman preserves his culture with his music and fancy dancing to express himself and uplift those around him.
Supaman: My grandpa was my male role model, you know, and he was the president of the Native American Church, which is Peyote Native Religion if you know anything about that, and so he taught me a lot of values about being Apsáalooke, about being a Crow traditional hot dancer. He said we come out here, and we dance out in the circle for the people. He said some of them are out there, and they can't dance, they're in wheelchairs. Those are the people that you dance for. He said, “When you come out to the circle make sure your heart’s in a good place because the people can see your heart, and if it's in a good place then their spirit is uplifted and healing takes place. Every step, you know, let it be a prayer, let it be something that has good intentions.
Nick Spitzer: Tell me how you found rap.
S: The first time I heard hip-hop was when I was just, man, maybe a first-grader. My parents were partying, and they were jamming this song called “Rapper's Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang, and so we would listen to the MCs. We listened to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. What he was talking about was like, “Yo, this guy’s talking about us, you know, he's talking about the oppressed.” And then we started freestyling a little bit, doing our own thing, but we never thought we had the right to be vocal, to be MCs, to rap, you know. We'd play around with it but we were like, “I’m not serious because I'm not from the city.” And so the way that we started getting confidence was we saw other natives doing it, some other natives started rapping and telling their stories about the reservation and native life. And so we started making albums, doing more like that and telling our stories through this medium of hip-hop culture.
NS: How did traditionalists back home, how did they respond to this?
S: Hip-hop got a bad rap because of the gangster and all that, and so they saw all hip-hop as bad and a bad influence, which it can be if you let it but that's one thing people don't know about hip-hop culture is it's rooted in positivity, you know, it was a movement for the well-being, the wellness of the community in the inner city. It's just another timing, another generation just like them.
S: Growing up–well a reservation is a concentration camp here in the United States. And so what was done to the Indigenous people of this land has its effects, you know, has a ripple effect which carries on until now, which comes out as alcoholism and poverty, you know, in a negative way. When I wanted to be an artist, I wanted to–you know I'm positive; I'm drug and alcohol free. I'm a father. I'm a husband. I love opening my mind and my heart to amazing things, amazing mysteries, and I know that I have the power to change my own destiny, you know right in this moment right now as I speak on the mic, I'm in control. I'm in control of my destiny, my thoughts, my happiness, my emotions. And so if I just take that and move forward every day and try to spread that good message, you know, just to do my part on this Earth in a good way with positive intentions. I mean, whatever you focus on in life, that's what it's going to be.
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