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Four Seminole musicians earn NAMA nominations

Spencer Battiest, right, was nominated in the best pop video category for “Dream.” (Courtesy image)

Tribal members Doc Native, Spencer Battiest, Carradine Billie and Anthony Balentine, who is commonly known as Aye Five, have earned Native American Music Award (NAMA) nominations.

“That’s what makes this super special,” Battiest said. “We are nominated alongside our Seminole brothers. For us to all have a moment like this is really special.”

The award winners will be determined by the number of votes cast by the public. Voting is open until March 31. To vote, click here.

Hollywood Reservation brothers Battiest and Native earned one nomination for “Dream” in the best pop video category. They earned three more nominations for “The Storm: Live from Home” in the best narrative in a video, best live performance video and best collaboration in a video categories.

“I’m very happy ‘Dream’ is getting recognition. It’s our latest song,” Native said. “Especially since we have our friend Adam Conte [director of the video], it’s fulfilling when we can bring our peers along with us. To have his hard work and dedication to our video be recognized alongside our music is very special.”

Battiest said he is proud to stand in solidarity with other Native artists. “It’s amazing because ‘Dream’ is our current fight song that lets people know not to give up on your dreams,” he said. “When we released it, a lot of people’s dreams were on hold.”

Aye Five’s song “Illusionz” was nominated for best narrative in a video. It was his first nomination. (Courtesy photo)

During the pandemic when musicians weren’t traveling or playing live shows, Native and Battiest revisited and reimagined their 10-year-old song “The Storm.” This time they and their band and recorded “The Storm: Live from Home” remotely from home studios in Hollywood, Florida; Seal Beach, California; Culver City, California; and Canton, Ohio.

“It was the first time we had done anything like that,” Native said. “It breathed new life into the song.”

Native changed some of the lyrics to reflect the reality that everyone is fighting to get through and survive the pandemic.

“The song is timeless because it’s a true story,” Battiest said. “It touches your soul and bothers you, it’s history. Not all history is beautiful or is an easy pill to swallow. It’s important that the truth be told. We will never stop performing this song.”

“The Storm: Live from Home” has more nominations for a song than any other the brothers have done over the years.

“It’s a song that resonates with a lot of Native and Indigenous communities,” Battiest said. “All of us in our own tribes have our own stories, but the struggle is the same.”

Native’s song “Buss Down” was nominated for best rap hip-hop video. He said the video is a spoof of the genre. Some of the props included Nerf guns, plenty of bling and a not too fancy car with a fake Rolls-Royce sticker on it.

“It’s all tongue in cheek,” Native said. “Everything in the video is in the character’s imagination. He’s actually the opposite of all that. It’s not just another hip-hop video. Even though we put in the hard work, we can still have fun with our craft.”

Tribal members, including Battiest brother Taylor, cousin Gus Baker and Adakai Robbins appear in the video, which is directed by Vigilanty.

Doc Native in the “Dream” video, which is nominated for best pop video. (Courtesy image)

“I always try to bring tribal youth with me whenever we do videos or live performances,” Native said. “We like to use our platform to showcase other Indigenous talent.”

Recognition for ‘Osceola’ Billie’s “Osceola” was also nominated for best rap hip-hop video. Billie, whose stage name is Seminole Prince, hails from the Big Cypress Reservation. This is his second NAMA nomination; the first was for the song “Remember Me.” He has recorded about 11 albums, some are available on streaming services.

Billie described “Osceola” as being about the Seminole Wars, but in the video he is a modern day warrior.

“Living as modern-day Seminoles, we have our own battles,” Billie said. “I’ve been sober 17 years. It took its toll on me; I lost a lot of friends to it. I knew it was time to make something better of my life and it was the best decision I ever made.”

When he started rapping in 2001, not many other tribal members were doing it. Today, Billie is impressed by the number of tribal members who rap. It inspires him to keep rapping.

“The nomination tells me I’m taking it seriously and trying to do something with my music,” he said. “I’m proud of it and grateful for the music, it’s helped me through a lot of tough times.”

First nomination for Aye Five

Aye Five’s “Illusionz” earned a nomination for best narrative in a video. The Big Cypress resident has been making music for 15 years. This is his first NAMA nomination and he said he is humbled by it.

“When I was starting out, I’d go to competitions and walk in by myself,” Aye Five said. “I’d see all the other artists with crews. They would laugh at me and say, ‘Who is this guy?’ Their mindset would change when I got onstage. I’d blow their mind and prove them wrong. I like the feeling of shocking people.”

Carradine Billie’s song “Osceola” is nominated in the best rap hip hop video category. It is his second nomination. (Courtesy photo)

Aye Five described the theme of the song as “it’s OK not to be OK” and that negative thoughts are just an illusion. One of the lyrics is: “My worst enemy was the one I shared breath with.”

“Ever since I was a little boy I knew I was here for a higher calling,” he said. “These messages in my music aren’t mine; they come from the universe for me to share. When you’re alone you get messages from the universe. That’s why being alone is a superpower.”

During the pandemic, artists had to figure out how to push their creativity despite the limitations. Native believes it gave artists a chance to connect and collaborate since everyone had more time on their hands. He is grateful to be nominated alongside other great Indigenous talent.

“I’m very happy our work is being recognized,” he said. “It’s been a trying two years for all of us, it’s great to see everyone is still finding ways to keep their careers going. We made it work. Five nominations, I wasn’t expecting that. It was a nice surprise.”

NAMA hasn’t held an awards show for two years, so Indigenous music from 2019-2021 was eligible for nomination. The organization also added 15 more categories.

“It is really important that people understand they have the power to determine the outcome,” Battiest said. “If they like any of our music, they should go and vote.”

Due to the pandemic, the awards show is scheduled to be held virtually sometime in the spring.

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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