2216 S. First Street Walk , Louisville, Kentucky, 40208

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In this talk, Dr. Kyle Mays (UCLA) will explore the cultural and political significance of Native American and Indigenous Hip Hop. On August 27, 2017, seven Indigenous hip hop artists from Canada and the United States graced the stage of the MTV Video Music Awards, which was held in Los Angeles, California. Decked out in “Native bling”—a modern, Indigenous aesthetic—they accepted the award for best video in the category “Fight Against the System” for their video “Stand Up/Standing Rock #NoDAPL." As the Cree artist Drezus noted, “When we got word it was breathtaking—a surreal feeling. We’re the first Native American hip-hop group to win a VMA.” Drezus’s comments suggest that Indigenous people, in spite of hundreds of years of settler colonial violence and dispossession, are still here, resisting and fighting, in the spirit of their ancestors, through hip hop. This lecture provides a window into how Indigenous hip hop artists are a creating a decolonial future.


Kyle T. Mays (Black/Saginaw Anishinaabe) is a transdisciplinary scholar and public intellectual of Indigenous Studies, Critical Ethnic Studies, and Indigenous popular culture. He is the author of Hip Hop Beats, Indigenous Rhymes: Modernity and Hip Hop in Indigenous North America (SUNY Press) and The Indigenous Motor City: Indigenous People and the Making of Modern Detroit (under contract with the University of Washington Press). He is also co-editing an anthology titled, Decolonizing Hip Hop: Blackness and Indigeneity in Hip Hop Culture (under contract with Sense Publishers). Dr. Mays writes regularly for public venues, including Indian Country Today Media Network; Native Appropriations; Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education and Society; and The Native Ninety Percent.

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