Native American Rapper Shoots for the Stars
Junior Harvey’s future is bright. Not only is he looking forward to starting college this year, the 18-year-old is also making a name for himself as a rapper in Indian country.
Harvey, Tohono O’odham, goes by the stage name “Ali Baby.” He started writing lyrics and making beats in 2010. In January 2011, he recorded his first song. In December 2011, he pre-released a mix tape to family members and students and faculty at his high school.
“I just love making music and it came to me so naturally,” said Harvey. “I just keep making new songs and I feel like I am getting better each time.”
Harvey is a senior at Ha:san Preparatory and Leadership School in Tucson, Arizona. He will be graduating in June and plans to attend Pima Community College in Tucson in the fall to study music production and building and construction technologies. Afterwards he wants to attend the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to earn his bachelor’s degree in music. But his ultimate goal is “to make it big” in the music industry.
Harvey put together a rap group named Mixed Breed and they have had their music played on radio stations across the U.S. Harvey’s mother Karen Liston e-mailed 50 Native American radio stations asking them to play Mixed Breed’s music. So far KOHN-FM 91.9 on the Tohono O’odham Nation in Sells, Arizona, KIDE 91.3 FM on Hoopa Valley reservation in Hoopa, California and Seneca Broadcasting Company’s WGWE 105.9 FM in Salamanca, New York. Mixed Breed’s music has also been played on HOT 98.3 in Tucson, Arizona.
There are five group members in Mixed Breed. Four are high school students at Ha:san and one is an instructor there. Jeremy “Chino” Romero and Mark “Lil Shugz” Coronado are Pascua Yaqui, Layanna “Annalex” Toro is Tohono O’odham, and Landon “DJ DoezIt” Walls is Hopi and Onondaga.
“Mixed Breed music means the various genres, the many indigenous cultures within our group, and the styles each one of us possesses. Our music is for anyone. We create songs in rap, R&B, hip hop, rock, country. Mixed Breed is everybody. We are a movement. Mixed Breed is the future,” reads Ali Baby's profile on Reverbnation.com. Mixed Breed will be releasing their first album called “The Beginning” on February 21.
Harvey said their success wouldn’t have been possible without help from Walls, the intervention specialist at Ha:san. During school hours, Walls monitors students’ grades and attendance, as well as offers advice and counseling about college. After school he handles the Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) tutoring. AIMS is a state standards-based test designed specifically to measure students' progress toward achieving Arizona's standards in reading, writing and math. And Walls runs the after school program.
Walls, who is Hopi and Onondaga, wants nothing more than for the students to succeed in life and make something of themselves. And he thought what better way than through music. Through a federal grant Walls was able to turn part of his office into a studio and began working with Harvey and Mixed Breed.
“I decided to create a studio because I thought it would be a great way for students to express themselves,” Walls said. “But most importantly I want them [students] to continue to write and be creative.”
The federal grant came from the 21st Century Community Learning Center program through the U.S. Department of Education. The program supports the creation of community learning centers that provide academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours for children, particularly students who attend high-poverty and low-performing schools, according to the Department of Education website.
Ha:san was awarded $450,000 over a five year period. The money goes toward direct services to the students and community, tutors, field trips, GED programs, classroom supplies, enrichment programs and instructors, said Walls.
In April 2011, he purchased studio equipment, microphones, speakers and Pro Tools software for $2,500. Walls and Harvey have spent many hours in the studio using the equipment to mix beats and record songs.
“Over the last nine months we’ve produced 25 songs,” Walls said. “We have recorded during lunch time, after school, Fridays and Saturdays.”
Liston is proud of all the hard work her son has put into producing his own music. She supports her son in his pursuit of a career in music. She recorded his songs when they played on HOT 98.3 and KOHN 91.9.
“I was grinning from ear to ear and shed a few tears when I heard his songs on the radio,” she said.
She listens to Harvey’s CD every time she goes to work and finds his songs inspiring to Native American youth.
“I just want to be known as the best,” said Harvey. He said if he doesn’t make it big he wants to be a construction worker or open his own recording studio in Tucson.
Mixed Breed will be performing at the 74th Annual Tohono O’odham Nation Rodeo and Fair in Sells, Arizona Friday, February 3 at 12 p.m. and radio station WOJB 88.9 FM in Hayward, Wisconsin, has asked for an interview with Mixed Breed. Harvey said he was also recently asked to perform at DV8 night club in Tucson.