Gyasi smiles a lot.
He wears really colorful outfits. He is very tall. He is brown. Gyasi has lived in in places like Browning, Montana; Lawrence, Kansas; New York, New York; and Suquamish, Washington. He always makes friends but never fits in.
Gyasi refuses to compromise.
No, I don’t mean that he’s uncooperative. I mean that he’s okay with being at once a big dusty rez guy, a fancy lawyer, a hip-hop head, and a devoted father. Emphasis on “at once” because he is always all of these things, no matter who he’s around or what he’s doing, and has absolutely no qualms about it.
Gyasi tells stories.
He’s a new-style Pikuni storyteller with reverence for old-style Pikuni ways, and recognizes that sometimes there’s no difference. What I mean is, he likes to share stuff. Honest stuff. Awkward stuff. Hopefully, heartening and useful stuff. If you have ever read any of the many things he writes or listened to his sundry recitations, you will not be surprised to learn that he is the grandson of Percy Bullchild, which means that storytelling is in his blood. It’s what he does. It’s how he survives.
Gyasi made an album.
It’s called Isskootsik: Before Here Was Here. And while he might agree when I tell you that he has a knack for oral-formulaic composition (a.k.a. it sounds dope), he might also tell you that these songs don’t have much of anything to do with him. These songs are stories, and these stories are about you, and her, and over there, and that other thing, and all that stuff. Isskootsik was collected over time, through community, delivered with love, intended to heal and reveal in that way that, in my mind, can only be done through Indigenous storytelling.