Toronto's Que Rock Is "Completing the Circle" of Teaching Aboriginal Culture

We premiere his new video, "Wounded Knee, Pt. 3" and talk to him about its many messages.
November 17, 2016, 3:57pm

Image via YouTube

Que Rock is an Anishnawbe rapper based in Toronto who's been an active member of the city's indigenous rap and b-boy community for years. Most recently, he was featured in First Out Here, Noisey's documentary about indigenous rap across Canada. David Strickland, the studio vet who was also featured in the doc, produced Que's new single "Wounded Knee, Pt. 3," a rampaging indictment of complacency and an urgent call to wake up. "Skip jump the heartbeat / love like Bob Marley / fight like Marcus Garvey / be the artist starving" he spits in the song's tongue-twisting hook. We're premiering the video for "Wounded Knee, Pt. 3" below and read on for our interview with Que Rock.

Noisey: How did you get into music?
Que Rock: I first heard hip-hop music when I was six, when my brother was practicing b-boying for a talent contest at his high school. I was attracted to all the hip-hop art forms and immediately started to learn each one to be like my big brother. When I started making music, I married what I had learned from my Anishnawbe elders and my parents and translated that into everything I love about hip-hop and music.

How did the creation of this song come about?
It started with David "Gordo" Strickland reaching out to me and making a song with me. I always wanted to work with Gordo. He asked if I had any samples in mind. I shared with him the sample "Hoggin Machine" from Les Baxter's soundtrack to Hell's Belles. He flipped the sample then produced and engineered the beat. I wanted to sample my dad at the beginning and end of the track, using his voice from the NFB film The Spirit Within. I wanted to lock in with some soft preparation and importance from our culture then end with a warning that if we don't embrace our past our future could be lost. Complete the circle. That's very important in our culture and our art.

What is the message of this video?
One message is a direct link to the Wounded Knee massacre and the Wounded Knee incident. My lyrics are expressing and prophesying that if we do not change our ways, there is going to be a third Wounded Knee. We could be culturally wiped out.  Another message I was trying to convey is to encourage people to remember the human and civil rights leaders of the past and to research their approaches to dealing with colonization and oppression. The final message is about First Nations traditional approaches to our regalia and our way of life.  It's my responsibility to share with my culture, part of our fundamental teachings. I want them to hear my music and think, "Hey, I can do that! I can do better!  I'm not who people think I am."

With the attention from First Out Here, has anything changed in how you're now approaching music going forward?
First Out Here was inspiring. It was great to have to see showcased indigenous hip-hop artists across the country and the diversity in their music. After the release of the film I have been using the momentum from the exposure to continue creating more music and other art projects. Like I said, it's about sharing. I recently opened an indigenous art gallery in Toronto where I am showcasing a variety of work from my nation, including paintings, beadwork and woodwork using traditional approaches. It's been great to talk to people about the art and the meaning behind it all. Sharing inspires me to write more and get back to the studio to make more music. Keep on passing the torch.

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