A Tribe Called Red
OG (feat. Black Bear) single
A Tribe Called Red kind of defy categorization. Based around some sick beats, 2oolman and Bear Witness create pulsating rhythms and complex, dense soundscapes that draw on everything from EDM to reggae to old school techno to indigenous drumming and chanting. They are essentially a genre unto themselves, powwow-step, as they draw heavily on their indigenous heritage and speak truth to power about the plight of the indigenous in Canada today. In other words, they are absolutely fucking essential music.
Their last album, We Are the Halluci Nation, came out in 2016 and traced the plight of the indigenous in Canada today, from the dispossession of their land, culture, religion, language, the crimes of Canada in residential schools, to the utter defiance and strength of indigenous culture. It was nothing short of brilliant.
ATCR are part of a larger political and cultural movement in Canada today, one that co-existed with the #IdleNoMore activism of the early decade, which was really just a front for what had always been going on, it just brought indigenous activism to the Canadian mainstream. This has continued through the campaign for justice for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, which ultimately led to a government commission that issued its report this spring, going so far as to declare Canada has been the site of a genocide against indigenous women. It also includes arts, there is a flourishing indigenous hip hop scene in Canada, to say nothing of Inuit throat singing and, of course there is literature, most notably in the form of Eden Robinson, one of Canada’s most brilliant writers. Halluci Nation struck a chord in Canada, but ATCR’s reach goes far beyond the boundaries of our country. Halluci Nation included guest spots from Saul Williams, Tanya Tagaq (herself part of this larger cultural movement and an essential Twitter follow), Shad, and Yasin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def. In fact, ATCR actually got Bey to sound like he actually still gives a shit as a rapper.
So here we are with ‘OG’, with the Black Bear Singers, who are the indigenous drum troupe from Québec that features prominently in ATCR’s music.
The OG in this case is Romeo Saganash, the NDP Member of Parliament for Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou in Northern Québec. Last fall, in a speech to the House of Commons, Saganash, criticized Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government’s actions regarding the Trans-Mountain Pipeline in British Columbia, which had been halted by the Federal Court in Canada since the government had not properly consulted with the First Nations of BC. Furious, and rightly so, Saganash said
When the Prime Minister says that this pipeline expansion will be done no matter what, and his minister adds that Canada will not be able to accommodate all indigenous concerns, what that means is that they have decided to wilfully violate their constitutional duties and obligations. Mr. Speaker, sounds like a most important relationship, doesn’t it? Why doesn’t the Prime Minister just say the truth and tell indigenous peoples that he doesn’t give a fuck about their rights?
Saganash was admonished by the Speaker of the House, but refused to back down. ATCR state that
It would be impossible to overstate the impact that Romeo Saganash’s words had on the Indigenous world and on us personally. We feel that the stand he took that day in parliament needs to be remembered, memorialized and commemorated. This is a celebration of that moment.
The song? Well, it’s pure ATCR, with the Black Bear singers chanting over the beat, their voices cut up and syncopated, as the beat picks up, before Saganash’s words are sampled over the beat. This is some seriously brilliant and necessary shit for all Canadians right now.