Growing up in Kitamaat Village – Haisla Nation, childhood friends Quinton “Yung Trybez” Nyce and Darren “Young D” Metz, aka Snotty Nose Rez Kids, were budding writers and athletes. Their chemistry started on the high-school basketball court, years before the stage – Metz was a starting point guard, and Nyce was the small forward.

The duo also shared a connection to hip-hop culture. Nyce and Metz were unwittingly exposed to offensive caricatures and stereotypes of First Nations people via everything from Walt Disney and Looney Tunes cartoons to the evening news. Because of that, hip-hop culture resonated powerfully – particularly rappers Dr. Dre, Lil Wayne, Eminem, and Jay Z, who, like them, resisted society’s denigration of who they were. But living in a distant enclave, a 1,400-kilometer drive from Vancouver, meant that hip-hop tours never made it to their town.  It was through VHS tour tapes that they were able to access a world to which they’d eventually contribute, however unlikely it appeared at the time.

The duo has come a long way since then. They made the Polaris Top 10 in 2018, and toured Canada, the U.S., and Australia, while their single “Savages” spent more than 20 weeks on the Indigenous Music Countdown. They were nominated for Best Hip Hop Album at the 2018 Indigenous Music Awards, won Best Hip Hop Artist at the 2018 Western Canadian Music Awards, and earned a 2019 JUNO nomination for Indigenous Music Album of the Year, for The Average Savage.

It was a grassroots community of local change-makers, encountered during their college years in Vancouver, that inspired them to bring their personal identities to their sound. “It was just empowering people,” says Metz. “So many Indigenous people. Not just Indigenous, but our allies, too. Everyone we were hanging out with was either finishing their undergraduate or masters [degree]. We knew people that were leading those marches that you see in the streets here in Vancouver, and that influenced us heavy.”

Nyce, who was still dealing with the loss of his older brother in 2013, felt transformed personally and creatively. “The people we were surrounded by changed the direction of our music,” he says. The open mic nights that the duo began casually playing in 2012 began attracting large crowds, and this led Nyce and Metz to a revelation. “We realized how important it was for us to write and put out music that meant something to us,” says Nyce.  “How important our voices were for other people as well. Music came first. The message came once we figured out who we actually are.”

The pair began drilling down creatively. They spent long nights writing tracks like “Clash of the Clans” and “Northern Lights” until the wee hours of the morning. Weeks of swapping demos and beats, bouncing ideas off each other, followed. And the pair, who most often write their verses separately, would come back together to form concepts track by track. When a track didn’t work, they’d scrap it, but more times than not they were on the same page. “We’re very like-minded in terms of beat selection, content, and rhyme schemes, “says Nyce.

“We’re really coming into ourselves… nothing can hold us back.” — Quinton “Yung Trybez” Nyce of Snotty Nose Rez Kids

In 2017, they landed on their band name, Snotty Nose Rez Kids, a reference to children that “are just running around the rez freely,” says Nyce. It reflected their story and gave affectionate acknowledgement to the people they wanted to empower.  Their 2017 self-titled debut balanced both stark realities and humour. “We wrote about the beautiful things that we experienced on the rez, [as well as] inter-generational trauma,” says Nyce. That same year they dropped The Average Savage.

“On Average Savage we really exposed the kinds of things that we grew up around, like racial stereotypes drilled into our minds,” continues Nyce. “They wanted us to hate ourselves, and wanted the rest of the country, in this colonial society, to hate us. We called it out for what it was.”

Honouring Women’s Wisdom
Trapline also stems from the wisdom endowed to them by powerful women in their lives – Nyce’s mother eloquently opens the album, in her own words, on “Wa’wais (Skit).” Metz’s grandmother tenderly recalls his grandfather’s oft-spoken advice, “don’t act crazy,” on “Granny Kay (Skit).” “They are the women that shaped us into who we are,” say both. “Without them we wouldn’t be the men we are today.” This tribute to the strength of women is also clear via dynamic female MCs featured throughout the album, like Kimmortal (“Lost Tribe”), Cartel Madras (“Aliens Vs Indians”), and The Sorority (“Son of a Matriarch,” itself a proud celebration of the matriarchy experienced in SNRK’s daily lives). “These [artists] are all people we met along the way that share the same struggle. We all have the same message; we’re just saying them in different ways,” says Metz.

The Average Savage grabbed ears and garnered media coverage way beyond their city. Its unabashed honesty and razor-sharp rhymes were hard to ignore, and its empowering content reverberated. Historically derogatory terms like “red man,” “savage” and “rez kid,” used to malign and demean, were stripped of their vitriol, re-stated and reclaimed with power, purpose, and pride. The album made the Polaris Music Prize 2018 short list, and earned a JUNO nomination for Indigenous Music Album of the Year. .  The duo say that the major recognition silenced many non-Indigenous members of their home community who initially spurned the album.

“Before the Polaris happened, there were a lot of people from our community that felt like we weren’t being fair with our message – about what we were saying. That didn’t matter to us, because we knew that [they] often didn’t share our values anyway. And it was really overshadowed by all the positives,” says Metz.

On Trapline (out May 10, 2019) the pair return even more assured, frank, and unapologetically celebratory. It’s a hard-earned, collective sense of pride that SNRK wanted to recognize this time. “[On Trapline] we’re really coming into ourselves and showing the world that we’re proud of who we are and where we come from, and nothing can hold us back. [It’s] an album full of anthems for this generation on the rise,” says Nyce.

From “Rebirth” featuring Tanya Tagaq, to “Boujee Natives,” Trapline reveals, and revels in, the rich diversity of their Indigenous roots.  “When people think of ‘boujee’ they think of rich, fancy things,” explains Metz. “And for us, ‘boujee’ is rich in culture. Educated – you know your traditions.” (Both Metz and Nyce are learning their native tongue.)

The message is unity. “Trapline is a reminder for people across Turtle Island [North America], and people of colour, that we all come from the same struggles, and that we’re going to come out of it through unity and the knowledge that we hold,” says Nyce. “We tried to put this album together so that we could talk to more than just our own community, and at the same time show our community that these people are just like us.”

They also recognize that they are now the voices influencing a generation. “As kids, we never had artists like us to relate to, so that’s why we listened to all the West and East Coasts rappers from back in the da,” says Metz. “But now with the internet, kids can hear music from different communities, different parts of Canada. These kids are listening to our music and they’re able to relate.”