LISTEN: Red Lake rapper Thomas X performs and talks new album
“Old Style” is the fifth album from Indigenous hip-hop artist Thomas X.
BEMIDJI – The third track on Thomas X’s new album Old Styles begins with a pitched-up sample of a woman singing in Ojibwe.
Next, a “let’s go” from the Red Lake rapper introduces the mid-tempo drum beat that anchors the song. When the first verse kicks off it is accompanied by a pulsing bassline that evokes the booming drumming you might hear at a powwow.
“It just sounded like a really cool mesh of Indigenous culture and obviously rap culture,” said Thomas on Centerstage Minnesota.
The song, which features Native Son, is titled “Indigenous Hip Hop” and is a great example of the music Thomas X has been making through five albums.
He will celebrate the release of the latest, Old Style, at Brigid’s Pub in Bemidji on Friday, Feb. 9 with openers Foxby and BWADE.
The album title was picked for the type of hip-hop he likes to make.
"The indigenous people tend to find beauty in the struggle. My grandparents, my great aunties and uncles and family members would take these government rations and work wonders with it the kitchen."Thomas X
“I just feel like my style of rap music is considered an old style nowadays,” Thomas X said, “. . . I feel like what I do is similar to the stuff I grew up on in the 90s.”
Going along with the 90’s theme is the album cover showing an aluminum can resembling a can of USDA commodity foods. The rations, sometimes called “commods,” were distributed on Native American reservations by the U.S. government and have a complex history.
For many they were another step in a long line of government actions that took food sovereignty out of the hands of Native American communities.
While not as common in the present day, the foods were a big part of Thomas X’s childhood and culture.
“The indigenous people tend to find beauty in the struggle,” Thomas X said. “My grandparents, my great aunties and uncles and family members would take these government rations and work wonders with it the kitchen.”
Along with digging into the inspiration for the album, the rapper also performed live at KBXE’s studio accompanied by Brendan Strong on vocals and hand drum.
Check out the full conversation and performance with Thomas X above.
Centerstage Minnesota, Fridays at 2 p.m. and 10 p.m. on KAXE/KBXE, is made possible by the citizens of Minnesota through the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.