Rapper Wahwahtay Benais offers perspective to Native American history while rapping at Plachta


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American Indian rapper Wahwahtay Benais performs in Plachta Auditorium in Warriner Hall Thursday night. Benais raps about past and present Native American issues, including living on reservations and genocide of his people. (Leah Sefton/Staff Photographer)

Rapper Wahwahtay Benais doesn’t think of himself as an American Indian hip-hop artist, but as a hip-hop artist that’s native because hip-hop is universal.

The rapper performed Thursday night as part of Native American History month to more than 150 people present at Warriner Hall's Plachta Auditorium.

Benais hails from Leech Lake Reservation, Minn., and generally raps about the 500 years of Native American history, particularly their struggles.

“I think what I rap about is conscious hip-hop”, Benais said. “Issues and things about history, and I use that to educate people.”

Benais did not always know he was going to be a rapper. Instead, he “stumbled” into it.

He started off freestyling because of the influence of hip-hop and rap on him as a youngster.

To get the crowd ready for the concert, Benais made a $500 bet with one of his friends to divide the crowd in half and see which side was the loudest.

After the bet was over, he told the crowd that he doesn’t believe in division, but in unity and persuaded the crowd to get as loud as they could and then continued on with the concert.

Toward the end of the concert, Benais performed a song he wrote two years ago about American Indian’s history with boarding schools.

This included schools “Americanizing” them and not letting them speak their language and cutting off their hair. Benais said in doing this, schools were trying to kill off the Indian nation.

Lansing freshman Kevin Reeves was intrigued by the performance because it was a different representation of American Indians.

“It was interesting,” Reeves said. “I have never seen anyone represent Native Americans in that type of format.”

Native American Programs brought in Benais to perform.

Woodhaven sophomore Jessica Torok was part of the team which organized the concert and was impressed by Benais performance. She thought it was important for Native American History Month.

“I think that it’s good because it allows students to be open to other cultures,” Torok said. “The fact that his songs were about Native American history adds something to the performance.”

Benais was thankful for being chosen to perform at CMU.

“It was cool,” Benais said. “It was a good look from the people that brought me out here.”

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