Frank Waln makes hip-hop that resonates with heart and spirit.
If you’ve been following the rise of Sicangu Lakota hip-hop artist Frank Waln, two things become immediately clear: he’s one of the hardest working artists in Indian Country—and nothing is going to take away from his commitment to his people and his culture.
Frank Waln has been making moves. He’s built a large and devoted audience of fans drawn to his powerful, heartfelt music and his unabashedly decolonial politics. He’s even been dubbed “the Bob Marley of the Lakota” for the way that he envisions music as a force for love, struggle, healing, and social change.
The sounds of struggle come blasting out in full force on Waln’s latest release, The Bridge, a 10-song EP that collects several of his recent singles and adds new firepower into the mix.
Fresh from a recent trip to Palestine, as part of a delegation led by The Dream Defenders, Vic Mensa, Aja Monet, and Ladybug Mecca of Digable Planets, The Bridge arrives effortlessly interweaving stories of personal and political struggle with a view to a decolonized future.
“I just returned home from meeting our Palestinian relatives and bearing witness to their struggles under settler colonialism”, Waln says.
“This is one of the most intense, transformative times of my life, and my new EP reflects this transformation.”
Waln’s music has always been about speaking back to power. On the Disney-flipping “What Made the Red Man Red”, “7”, and the Leonard Cohen rework “Treaties”, he transforms narratives of Indigenous dispossession and erasure into celebrations of continued strength and presence. But it’s on cuts like the anthemic “Basements”, featuring Nake Nula Waun, and “Victory Song” (from The Last Stand Mixtape) where the force of Waln’s mission becomes clear—he’s out to overcome any obstacles put in his path and to reclaim possibilities for living that 500 years of colonialism have tried to deny.
“The world is hungry for Indigenous voices and stories right now”, Waln says. “This album, like all Indigenous art, holds centuries of Indigenous stories, personal and universal. I made this project for myself and other Indigenous people like me who need honesty, vulnerability and healing in their lives.”
The Bridge is unapologetic in its politics and Waln has gathered a strong list of guest contributors to support his vision, including appearances from Rollie Raps, Gunner Jules, Melody McKiver, Tanaya Winder, and Kodi DeNoyer. There’s a developing sense that Waln isn’t just speaking for himself on this record, he’s voicing the concerns and the aspirations of a generation.
At a time of profound change in America, where climate change is wreaking havoc on the land and water and Nazis are marching in the streets, but also a time where colonial monuments are being removed across the country, Columbus statues are being beheaded, and cities like Los Angeles are officially replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day, Waln’s music couldn’t be more timely.
This is music for a generation of Indigenous youth rising to meet the challenges they have inherited. This is music for those intent on dreaming a world into being that allows them to thrive and be proud. This is resurgent, healing music for the people.
“Art is a bridge to help us heal,” says Waln. “Our stories are medicine.”
STREAM: Frank Waln – The Bridge
The Bridge – Track List
- What Made the Red Man Red
- Basements (feat. Nake Nula Waun)
- Rollie’s Interlude (feat. Rollie Raps)
- Victory Song (feat. Kodi DeNoyer)
- 7 (feat. Tanaya Winder)
- Runaway (feat. Kodi DeNoyer & Melody McKiver)
- Back to the Beginning (feat. Tanaya Winder)
- Good Way (feat. Gunner Jules & Rollie Raps)
- My Stone 2017 (feat. Samsoche Sampson & Yako 440)