After nearly three years since his last project, Indigenous hip-hop pioneer Quese IMC (Seminole) has just released his latest solo project, DEFOVER30.
He has performed with Run DMC, Petey Pablo, Pharcyde, Ludacris, DJ Grandmaster Flash and more, his music has appeared in major and independent films and he has composed and released this project featuring Emmy-award-winning hip-hop artist Jabee, Witko of MTV’s rebel music and more.
In a conversation with ICTMN, Quese IMC, who now also offers workshops, keynote speaking on the Indigenous hip-hop movement and music production explains how he has managed to still be “DEF” over 30.
How long has it been since your last album?
My last album was a collaboration in 2013. My last solo album I put out was in July 2011. It has been almost five years, so this is pretty special in terms of a solo project.
What is the backstory to this album?
This is my longest project ever; I’ve been working on it for about a year and a half. This album is definitely an ‘artist’ album, complete with its attention to struggles, good times, pains and more. I always tell people this album has been through it all with me.
A lot of your tracks cover topics related to solidarity and the embrace of multiculturalism, can you comment on that?
On this album I address a lot in regards to red and black solidarity, Indigenous hip-hop and more. I also address allying with our black relatives, whether it be #BlackLivesMatter, the Nation of Islam, Justice or Else, The Million Man March and [I address] the importance indigenous people play in supporting our black relatives.
I address this because of the similar struggles we face today. We can embrace our differences as strong people in solidarity.
What is the overall message of your album?
The message is “Spiritual solidarity amongst all people through conscious, Indigenous hip hop music.”Being one of the pioneers of Indigenous hip hop, with the music I have been able to make and the events I have been able to organize over the years – I like to say that us older figures in this hip hop movement are still relevant.
We were there – in the 80s and the 90s – at a time when the golden era of hip-hop in its relation to indigenous people was not as connected.
This is the whole reason I call this album DEFOVER30. The title doesn’t mean ‘Definitely’ over 30, it means DEF, that we are still dope over 30. We are still fresh, we are still relevant, we are still here, over 30. We are putting out good conscious-positive, dope hip-hop music.
This is music for the people. This is music for the movement. This is music for a solution.
Sometimes in the Native community, especially on social media, you will find comments directed toward indigenous hip-hop that state “hip-hop is not Native music.” How do you respond to that?
I would say that hip-hop affected me when I was a kid. I grew up as a freestyler and as a battle MC. I was moved by Public Enemy, I was moved by the free South Africa movement, I was moved by black culture. I was moved by the people uniting with their fists up in fighting the power.
This togetherness of the people influenced me. In regards to ourselves as Indian people, to include our lives, the battles, the struggles … we have always been together. we have had our struggles and differences amongst tribes that pitted us against each other, but in the end, after colonization, assimilation and oppression – we have started to band together and come together.
We can come together at a ceremony. We can come together at a pow wow, but hip-hop is a music that was created out of struggle by black youth and brown youth in New York. Hip-hop is a way and the medium for us to use in order to relay this message. Hip-hop is what I have always used.
In the 90s, I wanted to tell a story. I thought, “Man, I’m Native, I want to tell a story this way, through hip-hop.’”
We as Natives use hip-hop in the same way we use our sacred pipe or our sacred tomahawk. We use it to bring peace or we use it to go to war with a message or to wake people up.
I grew up hearing, “This is black music, why do you do that?’” But our elders have started to realize that how we express hip-hop is a positive thing.
What advice do you have for young artists?
It is important to have a hustle and grind. It is important to work hard. In my day we didn’t have social media. A lot has changed. Posting your show on social media though is not enough – you still have to work hard.
No matter what, it is all still about the grind, the hustle. You have to work hard.
For more information about Quese IMC – visit – http://queseimc.com