Los Nativos’ Felipe Cuauhtli Digs into Indigenous Peoples Day Showcase

Indigenous Peoples Show

In preparation for Minneapolis’ first Indigenous Peoples Day since the recent legislative name change, Los Nativos has returned to carry on their own tradition with their Indigenous Peoples Day Hip Hop Showcase on Sunday, October 12th at the 7th St Entry.

As a replacement to Christopher Columbus Day, the man often credited for “discovering” and subsequently ushering in European colonization to the Americas, the Minneapolis City Council decided to change the name to bring an evolved understanding of history back in late April of 2014. With the recent stirring of people looking for a way to celebrate their new found holiday, Los Nativos MC and the show’s founder, Felipe Cuauhtli said that “it will be a great year and a transitional year.”

“The approach is actually the same,” said Felipe Cuauhtli. “In the last two years, we started calling it ‘Indigenous Peoples Day Hip Hop Showcase’ (from Anti-Columbus Day), but I think people caught a little bit more wind to it this year because of the legislation and the change to Indigenous Peoples Day versus Columbus Day here in Minneapolis. So now, we are just continuing the same road.”

With the show’s history stretching back to the early 2000s, Los Nativos and Rhymesayers Entertainment stumbled upon the idea, much like Christopher Columbus’ serendipitous uncovering of the Americas.

“I booked October 12th not realizing what it was, said Felipe Cuauhtil, “and Rhymesayers has always taught me a long time ago to do something with a purpose. So I sat down to think about ‘what is the purpose of this show?’ ‘Is it just about Hip Hop?’ ‘Is it just entertainment?’ And I always try to bring something with a little more depth to the table. And so when I looked at the date, I was like ‘oh my goodness that’s Columbus Day’ and I think it was J-Bird who said that we should do Anti-Columbus Day and I said, ‘that is exactly something that we should do.’”

In what has become a staple in Twin Cities’ activism, the showcase is not only a celebration of Hip Hop, but as a platform for conversation of the lasting effects of colonization. And with the inclusion of both Minneapolis’ own Native voice, Tall Paul and Los Angeles/ Project Blowed veteran, Olmeca; the message looks to be well received.

“Anti Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples Day has always focused on groups that have a political consciousness in their music and that talk about issues that are faced or expose the effects of colonization on communities, especially communities of color. And so a lot of times we deal with groups from a lot of different cultural backgrounds. Colonization has effected all of us, even Africans who were brought over as a part of slavery. So we thought about all of that and felt the need to tell all of those stories because Hip Hop also encompasses all of those groups of people. Part of what we decided to do was to respect and honor the first peoples of this land, so before we had any music and long before anybody grabbed the microphone, we had a Dakota drum group come out and made sure that they opened the ceremony right.”

Yet like the idea of Indigenous Peoples Day itself, Los Nativos and Rhymesayers Entertainment have been met with backlash over the showcase dating back to the its first inception. But with the recent public outcry against the NFL and Washington to change their team’s name, Felipe Cuauhtli recognizes that this is a topic where prejudice is blinded by privilege.

“The thing about white privilege is that people don’t understand the connotation and the hurtfulness behind what they’re doing because they’re used to not having to. We’re talking about a system that in one point, people of color weren’t considered to be human beings. People just need to be honest with themselves. We live in a country that has all but abolished the original people of this land and pushed them into reservations and south and north (into Canada, South America and Mexico). And then think that one day we can just say ‘ahhh we were just kidding’ or ‘nahh don’t worry about it.’”

Los Nativos

Aside from the excitement of the new holiday, fans will be delighted to see one of the original Headshots/Rhymesayers members performing again for the first time since Soundset 2014. Although, this may be happening more often as Los Nativos is putting the finishing touches on a new album, their first full length since their 2003 label debut, Dia De Los Muertos.

“We are completing a full length record called ‘The Eagle & The Jaguar.’ We are currently in the creative process of trying to figure out the order of all the songs as we have all the songs put together. We have been working on it for the last 5-6 years. Consequently, when I took over Fifth Element, understand that that it’s time consuming and I wanted to treat that with respect. Unfortunately, it took me away from making music and being an artist. And Xilam Balam and I have been in each other’s ears lately trying to figure out if this is something that we want to continue to do. We will always make music together, but it’s a sacrifice and we need to sit down to figure out what does it mean for our lives and how much energy we are trying to put into this. So we are really excited to put this new music out.”

Along with their return to music, Los Nativos is also working on how to incorporate their love for visual art within their music through their Electric Machete Studios. Established as a collective of family artists spanning various mediums such as painters and dancers, they focus on capturing the Indigenous/Latin narrative through creative exploration.

“We are just trying to figure out the next step with the record, but I think right now we’re in a situation where we know for sure that we’re going to drop it digitally. I think right now we are going to create a limited edition CD sleeve that features art from one of the artists from the Electric Machete studios for the few physical copies that we do sell.”

The Indigenous Peoples Day Hip Hop Showcase will be taking place at the 7th St Entry on Sunday, October 12th at 9pm with performances by Los Nativos, Tall Paul and Olmeca. And be sure to stay up to date with Los Nativos through their Facebook, Twitter, Rhymesayers Entertainment and Electric Machete Studios pages.