Meet the Native-American Rapper With the Sound Track to Keystone Protests

Frankie Waln hopes his song “Oil 4 Blood” can add emotion to pipeline debate.

Photo by Shadia Fayne Wood.
National Journal
Jason Plautz
May 9, 2014, 1 a.m.

Last month’s “Re­ject and Pro­tect” protest in Wash­ing­ton on the Key­stone XL oil-sands pipeline in­cluded ap­pear­ances by Neil Young, act­ress Daryl Han­nah, and hun­dreds of cow­boys, In­di­ans, and en­vir­on­ment­al­ists. But only one per­son came armed with a rap song.

Frankie Waln, a Sic­an­gu Lakota hip-hop artist from the Rose­bud Sioux tribe in South Dakota, was in­vited to the protest to per­form a set that in­cluded the song “Oil 4 Blood,” which he wrote about Key­stone. The song was writ­ten and re­cor­ded three years ago, but Waln said it’s found “a whole new life” in the past year as the Key­stone protests have heated up. Waln, 24, will gradu­ate from Chica­go’s Columbia Col­lege this month study­ing au­dio design and pro­duc­tion.

In an in­ter­view with Na­tion­al Journ­al, Waln ex­plained how the song came about, what it meant to per­form it at a protest, and why it refers to his moth­er.

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How did “Oil 4 Blood” come about? Why write a song about Key­stone?

This was about three years ago, and I was in my dorm room, and this was about the time Key­stone star­ted to be talked about back home. I was on Face­book, and I star­ted see­ing pho­tos pop up from a protest at home, where people on my re­ser­va­tion had block­aded a road and were block­ing trucks that were car­ry­ing pieces of the pipeline. There was one video of Mar­ie Ran­dall, a 92-year-old, and she was speak­ing to my gen­er­a­tion. She was say­ing, “All we have left is this land. I’m 92 years old, and I’m not go­ing to be out here much longer. Who’s go­ing to be out there when I’m gone?” That really spoke to me and cut to my core. So I did the only thing I knew how to do.

What’s the main theme of the song?

We do not want the Key­stone pipeline. If you look at the chor­us, when I say “soil my love,” I mean you’re des­troy­ing the earth. And when I say “my moth­er,” I’m talk­ing about the earth. Our word for nature means moth­er, so we look at the earth very much the way we look at our moth­er.

In the verses, I’m talk­ing about a lot of the is­sues we face on the re­ser­va­tion and say­ing we have a lot to worry about already. We don’t need this pipeline pois­on­ing our land.

Why do you think it’s im­port­ant to have a song as part of this move­ment?

I didn’t really real­ize this un­til I per­formed … but people came up to me and were say­ing that all day we had speeches, we had num­bers and facts and stat­ist­ics. But mu­sic brought an emo­tion­al ele­ment. You can make people feel something. For some people it con­nects much stronger. Through ex­per­i­en­cing emo­tion through mu­sic, we can make a con­nec­tion that we couldn’t just listen­ing to num­bers.

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