Apsaalooke (Crow) Nation champion fancy dancer and rapper Christian Parrish, aka Supaman, won the MTV Iggy’s Artist of the Week Award last week. The award highlights top up-and-coming performers.
However, using “up and coming” to describe Parrish might be a bit of a misnomer, as he’s been on the grind and performing in powwows since he was a child. He has been performing in rap shows since 2005 when he released an album with his Rezawrecktion Christian-rap based crew.
“It’s been a long journey since I’ve stayed underground. Almost 10 years!” he said. “I’m almost hesitant to tell people how long I’ve been rapping because then they’re like, ‘You’ve been rapping that long and still didn’t blow up yet? You should try something else.’”
In spite of not “blowing up” – although his MTV Iiggy Award should help alleviate that problem – Parrish said rapping has been his “bread and butter” and he’s done fairly well as an indie artist. “Not a lot of Native hip-hop artists can say, ‘This is my full-time job, and this is what I do to feed my family.’ So it’s a blessing to tell people that.”
Parrish pinpoints his late boost on his road to success to when he was invited to the Thanksgiving Day Macy’s Parade to fancy dance. Afterward, he auditioned for “America’s Got Talent” with a song he created where he “looped” a song by combining a drum, flute, his own beat box sounds, rapping and fancy dancing.
“I knew it was going to be special,” he said. “But I didn’t quite do it right because I was still brand new to that little (looping) machine.”
When The Billings Gazette put his more refined version of the Supaman “Prayer Loop Song” on YouTube last month, the video went viral. Parrish notes, “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!”
He was contacted by an MTV editor who said the music network would like to feature some of his music on its weekly MTV Viggy Artist of the Week award. Of course he was honored and obliged.
“I think out of hundreds of entries, they only select like five or six artists to compete in the artist of the week,” he said. “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.”
He told others that he was up for a weekly MTV Iiggy award, and although he’s an underground artist, his name recognition took off like a prairie wildfire throughout Native America.
“It really showed me the Native power and support they have for other Natives doing positive,” he said. “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.”
MTV Iggy’s Suzy Exposito wrote of Parrish’s win, “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.”
One of his featured songs was a collaborative effort with veteran New Jersey hip-hop artist Chino XL. Parrish had always admired the lyrical talent of Chino XL, who combines a persona as hulking bodybuilder and high IQ society member of Mensa.
“His use of wordplay and punchlines is just ... beyond!” said Parrish. “I just hit him up to do a feature, and right away he was like, ‘Yup, let’s do this! I’ve collaborated with a few Natives, and I’m all about The People.’”
In his “Prayer Loop Song,” Parrish/Supaman is notably seen wearing his powwow regalia. This wasn’t the first time he’d performed while rapping in his powwow clothes, however.
“I was at a powwow dancing at Montana State University in Bozeman during Heritage Day,” he said. “After we were done, 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.’”
While people were thrilled by the scene of a fancy dancer/rapper and it seemed to be a hit, Parrish did acknowledge that he knew certain segments of Native American society would be offended.
“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,” he said.
“But it shouldn’t be that bad with fancy dancing. I mean, that was a total contemporary 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 prior.”
Parrish recognized a positive message that could come about from those seeing him in his regalia while doing other things aside from fancy dancing, and decided it was something he would maybe do more often in the future as he eventually did in his “Prayer Loop Song.”
He said he’d do it again, “Not 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.”