Supaman, an award-winning rapper and fancy dancer from the Apsaalooke Nation, doesn’t turn down many shows. That can delay an album (like his latest, “Illuminatives”), but he’s not interested in missing an opportunity to speak to people through his music.
“I try to do everything I can, from a festival to a youth conference,” Supaman said in a recent phone interview. “To let my voice be heard, I’m there.”
That philosophy has taken him to the New Orleans Jazz Festival, a Butte gymnasium and, soon, the Wilma, as a part of UM’s Arts Integration Conference.
Supaman, whose given name is Christian Takes Gun Parrish, has been rapping since the early 2000s, releasing a steady stream of records addressing life on reservations, parenthood and faith.
His newest album, “Illuminatives,” fully blends hip-hop beats and traditional Native instruments to create a unique, creative soundscape. It matches perfectly with his many viral videos, which show Supaman in full regalia, looping drums, flute, jingle dress and drum machines before rapping over the beat in English and Crow.
“It was such a good lane and it was being embraced,” he said. “People were actually waiting for it.”
The record has the first album version of a few of his video hits like “Prayer Loop Song” and “Why.”
His performances capture people's interest in every environment Supaman is in — he is both excited and a little sad when playing to crowds outside of the west, where there’s little knowledge about Native Americans.
“It’s 2018 and I’m still sharing these basic things,” he said. “It shows the relationship America has with Native people.”
That relationship got national attention during the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests in Standing Rock, South Dakota in 2016.
Supaman regularly visited the protest site and was part of the group Mag7, featuring Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas and five other indigenous artists that recorded “Stand Up,” an anthem for the movement that won an award at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards.
He went to Los Angeles for the ceremony, sporting a headdress, beaded cuffs and moccasins on the red carpet.
“It’s been a big boost,” Supaman said. “A huge stamp of accomplishment.”
Taboo (who does “everything big,” according to Supaman) wanted the group to keep working together — they’re nearing completion on a documentary about each member of Mag7 and their respective journeys with a corresponding soundtrack by the group.
In the meantime, Supaman kept touring and putting the finishing touches on “Illuminatives.” He won more awards at this year’s Indigenous Music Awards, held in Winnipeg, taking home best rap/hip-hop album and best producer/engineer.
The production award meant a lot to Supaman, since he self-produces and records his music at his home studio.
“I pride myself in that,” he said. “I’m making a beat, I definitely feel it myself ... it comes from your heart and that’s what you enjoy.”
Mixing hip-hop and traditional tribal instrumentation comes fairly naturally to Supaman, who “grew up" on pow-wows and rap music.
The song structures are a bit different, but for the most part he finds a natural connection between hip-hop, which traditionally talks about life as an oppressed and sometimes impoverish minority, and growing up Native American.
“I know both sounds,” he said. “I know those rhythms already.”
He’s started rapping in the Crow language as well, although he’s not yet fluent. He was always impressed by a friend who would bust out rhymes in Crow during freestyle battles and asked the same friend to help him write verses in Crow.
“There’s some parts I had to cut off or redo to make it rhyme or flow,” Supaman said. “It was a fun thing to do.”
Now he’ll hear from people who are learning Crow phrases from his music, just another way he can educate and affect through music.
His live shows are an amalgamation of rap, comedy and educational speaking, which can shift based on the audience.
He learned doing the festival circuit to keep it focused more on music, to keep the crowd invested, as opposed to a school assembly, where he can do more teaching and motivational speaking.
But regardless of where he’s playing, or who it’s to, Supaman’s there to preach.
“This is culture, this is spirituality, this is hip-hop,” he said. “It’s refreshing to a lot of people.
“It’s definitely something that you probably never seen before.”