Chase Monchamp, 28
Background: Part Oglala, Anishinaabe and Muscogee Creek, raised in Eagan, graduated from Burnsville High, with family ties to the Leech Lake and Pine Ridge reservations. Mentors kids in the Project Your Voice program at Little Earth of United Tribes housing center in south Minneapolis.
Career so far: Has released four albums, including last year’s playful party collection “2013” and the grimmer, issue-oriented 2010 collection “Tribal Tribulations,” named best hip-hop album of the year by the Native American Music Awards in Albuquerque, N.M. Has heavily toured the Southwest, headlined 7th Street Entry locally and is headed on his second Canadian tour later this year.
On being American Indian: “I was definitely raised with the traditions, day-to-day things like putting tobacco down to give thanks. I was mostly raised Ojibwe and know the slang. I didn’t grow up on a reservation, but I’ve seen firsthand the social issues affecting Native Americans, the high suicide rates, the poverty rates, all higher than in any other part of the American population.”
On being a rapper: “I didn’t even think about it in connection to my Native American background when I was starting out. I was just another kid freestyling in high school, trying to show off. I feel a little bit of responsibility about what I say now, because I’m seen as a representative of the community. I have a 7-year-old nephew [his late brother’s son] and want to be a positive role model. But ultimately it comes down to I’m going to say what I want to say even if it’s not always positive or safe, which is what rap is all about.”
Paul Wenell Jr., 26
Background: He is Anishinaabe, raised in south Minneapolis, graduated from South High, with ties to the Leech Lake reservation. Tutors kids at the Anishinaabe Academy through the American Indian Math Project.
Career so far: Issued one album as the duo Point of Contact with the single “Prayers for a Song,” which has earned 225,000 views on YouTube. Also released one EP, “Birthday Present,” and his “Ahead of the Game” series featured a new online single before each Vikings game last season. Has shared bills with Big Quarters and MaLLy locally and is headed to California on tour next month.
On being an American Indian: “It was an identity struggle for me. I really didn’t know what being native meant when I was growing up. It had been washed out of my family, partly through forced assimilation. I would go to pow-wows and went to some of the sweats when I was a kid, but I was not around other native people enough to identify with it or take much pride in it. I think there’s a generational transition, and people my age are starting to take pride in it more. I hope to become more accustomed to the traditions and pass them along to my kids one day.”
On being a rapper: “My big thing is being able to express myself. Everyone should be able to do that if they want, and however they want."