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.

{{third­PartyEmbed type:you­tube id:yKh5awjG­WSk}}

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.

What We're Following See More »
State Dept. Review Faults Clinton Email Management
32 minutes ago

"A State Department audit has faulted Hillary Clinton and previous secretaries of state for poorly managing email and other computer information and slowly responding to new cybersecurity risks. ... It cites 'longstanding, systemic weaknesses' related to communications. These started before Clinton's appointment as secretary of state, but her failures were singled out as more serious."

Trump Rolls in Washington Primary
49 minutes ago

Donald Trump "was on course to win more than three-quarters of the vote in Washington's primary" last night. Ted Cruz's defunct candidacy still pulled about 10 percent. "Cruz dropped out of the race on May 3, but won 40 of the state's 41 delegates up for grabs at last weekend's state GOP convention."

Trump Rally Turns Violent in New Mexico
1 hours ago

"What started as a calm protest outside Donald Trump’s rally Tuesday erupted into fiery violence as protesters jumped on police cars, smashed windows and fought with Trump supporters and police. Police faced such an angry crowd that they called in reinforcements from around the state, seeking to double their numbers to counter the protesters, whose numbers swelled beyond 600." Protesters threw rocks and bottles at police, who broke up several fights. 

Hill Dems Mull Dropping Wasserman Schultz
4 hours ago

Concerned that she's become too divisive, "Democrats on Capitol Hill are discussing whether Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz should step down as Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairwoman before the party’s national convention in July. ... Wasserman Schultz has had an increasingly acrimonious relationship with the party’s other presidential candidate, Bernie Sanders, and his supporters, who argue she has tilted the scales in Clinton’s favor." The money quote, from a Democratic senator who backs Clinton: “There have been a lot of meetings over the past 48 hours about what color plate do we deliver Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s head on." Meanwhile, Newsweek takes a look at why no one seems to like Wasserman Schultz.

House Votes Today on Bill to Strip Budget Autonomy from DC
4 hours ago

"The U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote Wednesday on a Republican bill that would block the District of Columbia from spending locally raised tax revenue without congressional approval, prompting President Obama to pledge to veto it. In issuing the veto threat on Tuesday, the Obama White House made one of the strongest statements to date in support of the District’s attempt to win financial independence from Congress."