Yup’ik rap has hit Facebook, and people are loving it.
A local rap video posted last week has been viewed more than 59 thousand times and stars Byron Nicholai, the Toksook Bay teenager who’s made himself a household name in the Delta with his Yup’ik singing and dancing videos. Mike McIntyre produced the track and talks with KYUK about exploring a new genre and why Yup’ik raps so well. The song "Tuallu", which translates to "Ready!" in English, is the first single on the pair’s second album.
Producer Mike McIntyre:
There was a room full of people watching. I turned to them and asked, “Do you want to be on this song?” And they’re like, “Yeah!” So I’m like, “Do just that.” And then I rewinded it to the beginning, and “When I point to you, you say ‘Yeah!’” I played it back, and they went wild.
That was a lot of fun.
The beat that you heard in that is my beat. I have a studio at home. I’m a producer. I produced the I Sing, You Dance album prior to this.
This album we actually have a lot of time on our hands, and we wanted to kinda slowly get stuff together. I’ve been pushing him [Byron] to do Yup’ik rap and been showing him how to do it, kinda giving him pointers. It’s all about style and attitude. If it sounds cool, then it is cool, you know.
But it does make a lot of sense to do Yup’ik rap. It’s just a romantic language where everything sounds so good. The endings of the Yup’ik language are kinda similar, so you could say a lot. But there’s also several different ways to say Yup’ik words, so you could mismatch or change it around to get the meaning that you want out there.
I’m Kumlah. My rap name is Kumlah. My personal flavor is gangster rap. I asked him, “Is that too gangster?” He said, “Just be yourself.” So okay. This is me right here.
[Music rises. Kumlah begins rapping.]
We cut his song and put my part in. He was on fire the whole way through, but after my part he sounds like he’s kinda scolding me or nuunuqing me at the end. So it’s kinda funny.
I think he’s actually my uncle. We’re related through my mom’s side from Toksook, so it made it a fun experience.
That’s what we want to get out there—get Byron’s message out there—living good, straight living and positive vibes going out.
[Music rises and fades to end.]