Chris Parrish, aka Supaman, is an Apsaalooke (Crow) Nation indie rapper with pow wow fancy dancing skills that have garnered him championships. On March 21, he was named Artist of the Week by MTV’s Iggy blog, a site that touts the best new music. Parrish bested hundreds of others competing for the top spot, and MTV Iggy’s Suzy Exposito wrote that, “We love the way this Crow Nation rapper stands up for his community and doesn’t miss a beat. He integrates the fly vibes of ’90s New York City hip hop, with a grit that can only be grown in the Great Plains. Soar on, Supaman.”
ICTMN.com caught up with him to congratulate him and get his thoughts on his victory before he was going to do a storytelling presentation at the Denver March Pow Wow.
How did you get involved with the MTV Iggy nominations?
I got an email from the lady who was one of the editors at MTV, and she said, “We heard your music and saw some of your videos, and we’d like to feature some of your music on our weekly blog.” I was just like, “Yeah, sure!” And I sent them a couple of pictures and stuff like that, and that was an honor in itself. I think out of hundreds of entries, they only select like five or six artists to compete in the artist of the week. The other artist who came in second place, she was fairly well-known and pretty famous and all of her videos have like hundreds of thousands of reviews on youtube. And me, I’m still like really underground and my videos don’t have nearly as much as hers! After I started sharing to people that I was featured in the MTV blog as Artist of the Week, it really showed me the Native power and support they have for other Natives doing positive. People I didn’t even know would contact me through social media messaging me, “Hey, it’s really awesome that a Native is in this position to win, and we listened to your music, and that’s the right song to vote for!” That kind of support is awesome. I was hoping to get more media support, but it was mostly grass roots so it was really humbling.
How did you get veteran New Jersey rapper Chino XL to collaborate with you on the “Hunger Pains” song?
Out of all MC’s, he’s my favorite. His use of wordplay and punchlines is just…beyond! A lot of people don’t know who he is, but out of people really into lyricism and structured rhymes of rap – the craft – they know who Chino XL is. So I just hit him up to do a feature, and he was like right away, “Yup, let’s do this! I’ve collaborated with a few Natives, and I’m all about The People.”
Can you discuss “Prayer Loop,” the song where you combined a hand drum, flute, rapping, and dancing all in the same song while wearing your pow wow regalia?
I knew it was going to be special, and it’s something I did for an America’s Got Talent audition right after I was in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Native America was proud to have some good fancy dancers representing people in the parade, and it was good to be a part of it. It seems like that’s when things really started rolling because I was in the papers, and then that video starting going viral. After that I wanted to audition for America’s Got Talent and what I did on the video was what I wanted to do for the audition. I didn’t quite do it right because I was still brand new to that little machine. Still, on the internet or YouTube you’ll find a lot of ‘looping’ artists, but a Native one doing a hand drum, a flute, rapping, and fancy dancing? That’s pretty original. A quadruple threat! Ayyye!
How did rapping and making music in your pow wow regalia come about?
I’ve always kept hip-hop and my Native culture separate, but I was at a pow wow dancing at Montana State Universty in Bozeman during Heritage Day. After we were done and they wanted me to rap. I said “OK, but let me change real fast I’ll come right back!” They said, “There’s no time. You need to go on right now.” So we rapped in our outfits for the first time, and it was a hit. People were like, “Wow, you never see that! People rap in their outfits.” But I’ve always kept them separated like I said, because there’s always going to be people, “You can’t do that! You can’t mix those together!” And they’re against it for whatever reasons.
But it shouldn’t be that bad with fancy dancing. I mean, that was a total comtemporary style of dance anyway made up in Oklahoma for the tourists and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West shows. So it’s real contemporary, but people do get bent out of shape, and I understood that too and that’s why I never mixed them. But at the time I just went ahead and did it, and people really liked it. Then I was like, “Oh wow! People really liked that. I should do it more often.” Not even as a gimmick, but to show people that we do walk in two worlds as Natives. It’s a good thing to embrace who we are as Natives and be proud of it, but at the same time we express ourselves in different ways creatively.