By Dayna Mahannah
Perched at a table in a bustling 24-hour bistro, Nite Sun is unassuming at first glance, scrolling through their phone. But, half a grilled chicken panini later, the non-binary Cree-queer-Métis emcee is reminiscing about the first rap they wrote at age 12. “Do you wanna hear it?” says Nite Sun, traditionally known by their Cree spirit name Tipiskâw Pîsim, effortlessly rolling into rhyme at the table. It’s this confidence rumbling just below a low-key demeanour that stands out in the crowded room.
Others are noticing. Nite Sun threw down at the Khatsahlano Street Festival, plays a badass rapper in CBC Gem’s web series, Ming’s Dynasty (Read our feature on Pg 39), and the short grindhouse film they star in, Nite Ride, premieres this month at the 2019 Vancouver Queer Film Festival.
Nite Sun pulls a string of melted cheese from their plate. “I learned how to live as an artist at a very young age.” They spent childhood summers road tripping through Alberta with their Grandpa and siblings, doing traditional Métis dance and selling CDs along the way. “He taught us how to hustle.”
It’s Nite Sun’s father, an artist and actor, who has been both a monumental inspiration and significant challenge in their life. He encouraged his child’s love of music and, because of his success, Nite Sun believed in their own ability. But things changed in later years. “I feel like I need to have boundaries when I talk to him now. If anything I’m doing intimidates him…” They shake their head. “He also still lives in a colonial mindset.”
Just shy of 25 years old, Nite Sun continues to speak of generational trauma and internalized toxic masculinity with frank self-awareness. Acting, burlesque and rapping are proving healthy avenues to channel their pain. “It catapults you into a stage of evolution.”
This fortitude and candour carry into their music. Politically charged and addictively sultry, Nite Sun’s songs burst with straight-up lyrics that feel less in-your-face and more like real talk with an old soul. They scrap metaphorical artistry and press into generational, systemic manifestations of colonialism with stirring honesty.
“Trying to read between the lines — how is that going to help us right now?” Nite Sun wonders. “I just want to be blatant.”
Nite Sun performs August 1 at The Pace. Nite Ride premieres at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival August 16, 7 pm at International Village. Catch Ming’s Dynasty on gem.cbc.ca, and watch for upcoming performances by Nite Sun on their website, www.tipiskawpisim.comnite sun, the pace