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Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Magic’ By Xiuhtezcatl

Indigenous hip-hop artist Xiuhtezcatl saw magic in sunrises and rainfalls when he was a young boy. His appreciation of environment, what is natural, the humanity that binds people together, that gave him an innate sense of what was wrong with society, politicians, and the ecosystems that are dying around us.

Xiuhtezcatl raps about staying in touch with this simple beauty on “Magic,” which features Tru and Isa. The song appears on his debut album, “Break Free,” which was released in October.

“I feel this change, where has the magic gone. I feel it less and less with each breath I draw,” Xiuhtezcatl declares.

He notes the environmental destruction that is making it harder for him to feel. “Tipping the scales, we losing balance, we moving mountains. Drilling the shale. We’re choosing profit. We soak the canvas. Taste the poison, whenever the wind blows. Wage war, people suffering while we kill the planet.”

Like many youth (Xiuhtezcatl is 18 years-old), he has lost his innocence. “Watching our world die, something I couldn’t control.”

“Magic” is about dissolving barriers. It is a revolutionary cry against the trajectory of much of the world.

“This is your legacy, written in blood and dead magic,” Xiuhtezcatl proclaims. “You want it all, but you know that you can’t have it. All that you have was stolen from someone else. From a future generation that’s inheriting hell.”

Empires are crumbling. Digital machines rule. Still, Xiuhtezcatl refuses to submit to cynicism. He believes in repairing legacies by regaining the magic. “Return this magic. Determine our own destiny.”

Xiuhtezcatl was born in the United States but almost immediately moved to Mexico City. His ancestors are from Mexico City. On the podcast, “The Rebel Beat,” hosted by Aaron Lakoff, he said early in his life he became “very aware” of his “presence and responsibility to help protect” his culture and his people, the water, voices from his community, and the legacy of his ancestors, who fought for justice.

When he was six years-old, he became involved in social justice activism. His mother was involved in environmental activism. They would go to conferences and speak out. By 11 years-old, he turned to writing and came to realize the power of hip-hop and how it could be used as a “tool of resistance.” Later, he saw how hip-hop could help him reclaim his story.

Artists like Michael Franti, KRS-One, Talib Kweli, Pharcyde, Mos Def, Nas, and Common influenced him. Most of Native America tends to be silenced or go unheard, and for Xiuhtezcatl, hip-hop has such an immense ability to lift up indigenous people.

Hip-hop has empowered him to express his identity with “pride and strength without being pigeon-holed” and to create transcendent and defiant protest music that can exist as a beacon of hope for his generation.

Listen to “Magic” by Xiuhtezcatl (featuring Tru and Isa):

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."