Hip-hop is, after all, the global language of the youth. But it is also one of the languages of alternative politics, in the streets and against the state. Inevitably, then there is an un-bridgeable gap between Hollande’s electoral use of rap for his campaign and Medine rapping the ineffectiveness of human rights for black men and women in France.
Hip-hop emerged as the voice of the excluded, and as mainstreamed and commercialised as it has become, its essence can hardly be appropriated by those who represent the official politics of the state. Hip-hop talks to power from the streets, claiming self-empowerment, denouncing racial injustice and seeking economic equality.
As Los Nin gain international recognition, they are challenging assumptions of what it means to be indigenous. “What are you thinking?” asks one of their songs. It turns out one can be indigenous and rap, be at once cosmopolitan and native from Otavalo, revitalise ancestral cultures while living in urban environments.
Kichwa hip-hop dethrones the imagery of indigenous peoples as living in rural communities isolated from modernity - without electricity or laptops. Indigenous rap breaks such misconceptions by positing indigenous youth at the core of global, urban practices. Indigenous youths can be engineers and emcees, simultaneously urban and transnational. Indeed, while Los Nin studied at an elite, private university, the concentration of Mapuche populations in Chilean cities suggests the consolidation of urban indigeneities.