A Tribe Called Red On How They Recruited Yasiin Bey Into The Halluci Nation
The Native American, nominally Canada-based, globally active DJ collective A Tribe Called Red has been making noise since 2008. The basic blueprint of their sound is as simple as it is strikingly original; First Nation PowWow music made with a DJs ear for sound collage and a philosophy that utterly rejects the colonial mindset. By 2011 they were grabbling attention from astute DJs and bloggers (our own channel partners LargeUp, for instance) with mine expanding dub plate style tracks like the Super Cat-sampling rallying cry “NDNs From All Directions.”
Their new project We Are The Halluci Nation, however, uses this basic Electric PowWow blueprint to build a whole new kind of sonic machine. Rather than chopping and flipping their influences, ATCR have recruited a whole cast of like-minded collaborators–including but not limited to Yasiin Bey, Saul Williams, AIM activist and poet John Trudell, Canadian-Iraqi MC Narcy and Colombian visual artist Lido Pimienta–into a borderless nation they call the Halluci Nation. Taken as an album statement, the results are nothing less than revelatory–but as the suffix Nation suggests, the Halluci Nation is something much larger than a conventional album could contain. ATCR’s newest member 2oolman (who joins founders DJ NDN and Bear Witness) breaks it down eloquently below in this exclusive Okayplayer interview–as well as giving us the full backstory of our guy Yasiin’s recruitment into the Halluci Nation.
OKP: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, you all are on quite a roll right now. What exactly is your role in ATCR and how long have you been down with the crew?
2oolman: Thanks, Bear Witness has been doing this (DJing) for 20 years and he and NDN have been making music as ATCR for a minute now, but with this new album we had bigger dreams of how we want to accomplish our live performance. My role is really more bringing the live machine, live remixing; taking something familiar and changing it on the go. Our current style playing live is really very pass and go, pass the torch which gives it more spontaneity live.
I come from the same reserve Bear’s family does–I’m the only guy in the group born and raised on a reservation, Ian [NDN} and Bear grew up in urban settings–so they would just hear my stuff from other native friends, like: Yo 2ools just dropped something!–and eventually we linked,
I’m about 5 hours away from Ottawa but I would traveling, doing beat battling so we would cross paths at SXSW or I’d be in Winnipeg at the same time as them or I’d be at the Junos when they were and we’d get a studio to work on stuff. So we’ve gradually gotten tighter over the span of 8 years or so—as I said, I grew up with Bear’s first cousin on the reserve…and I have a real connection with [his family] the Thomases
OKP: What’s the name of the reserve?
OKP: The reason I ask, this record shows a pretty big leap from the white label stuff ATCR was doing with “NDNs From All Directions”
200l: Yeah “NDNs” was a big record that really showed what ATCR could do with vocals, a lot have been collabs from their label Tribal Spirit. When I was brought into album, we tried to just expand, just powwow music still, but really extending it to other indigenous peoples…
OKP: Notably, the collaboration with Yasiin, how did that come about?