Ojibwe rapper Day Dayz hopes to be ‘a blueprint for success’ for Native kids

a man sits on a chair
Hip-hop artist Eldayshun Big Bear, known as Day Dayz, is one of the first artists represented by the Dream Warriors Indigenous artist collective.
Mercies May via Sahan Journal

Meet Eldayshun Big Bear, known in the Minnesota hip-hop community as Day Dayz. He’s a 22-year-old emerging hip-hop artist from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe’s reservation.

On Wednesday, he dropped a new video in partnership with the Dream Warriors Collective, a nonprofit working to support and amplify Indigenous artists across the country.

Day Dayz joined MPR News host Cathy Wurzer to talk about the collaboration, what led him to a music career and his new album coming out this summer.

Read more about the Dream Warriors Collective in the Sahan Journal.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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Audio transcript

[DAY DAYZ, "RIGHT NOW"] DAY DAYZ: (SINGING) I'll teach you right now, right now

Why you're heartless

I'll water your soul

Take you back to the garden

I'll sow you this row.

Maybe find out where your heart is

I cannot let go

So many loved ones have departed

I'll teach you right now, right now

Why you're heartless

CATHY WURZER: The song you're hearing is called "Right Now" by Day Dayz. He's a 22-year-old emerging hip hop artist from the Mille Lacs band of Ojibwe's reservation. And today, he dropped a new video for the song in partnership with the Dream Warriors Collective. That's a nonprofit working to support and amplify Indigenous artists across the country. Right now, Eldayshun Big Bear, also known as Day Dayz, is on the line. Welcome.

DAY DAYZ: How are you doing, Cathy? Thank you for having me.

CATHY WURZER: I'm doing good. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. You're going to have to describe this video for listeners. It's really something. How would you describe it?

DAY DAYZ: So, this music video and the song represents just the trials and tribulations of what a small town kid goes through. Especially on my reservation, there's a lot of drugs, alcohol, and violence around here, so it's just-- it brings light to my home.

And not only a-- it brings a new image, it brings the fact that it's OK to be-- it's OK to grieve. It's OK to be hurt sometimes. But one thing that I always like to teach my kids, when I host basketball camps, is like, there's two ends of the basketball court. You make a mistake on this end. How are you going to respond? So I kind of think that's what the song fully represents.

CATHY WURZER: You mentioned home. It sounds like you have a lot of love for the place where you grew up. Would that be right?

DAY DAYZ: A lot of love, tons of love.

CATHY WURZER: And tell me why. Why is it such an important place in your heart?

DAY DAYZ: Because when you're a kid or just a person from Mille Lacs, it's a natural feeling of, it's you guys against the world. I kind of feel like Mille Lacs is kind of overlooked a little bit in tons of aspects, in sport and schools, this, that, and the third. So it's just a whole community that just feels like it's us against the world, you know. And that just brings everybody together.

CATHY WURZER: Mm-hmm, I understand. This new video is made with Dream Warriors, as I mentioned, and the executive director of Dream Warriors is Tall Paul. Some folks might know Tall Paul. He's an Anishinaabe and Oneida artist from South Minneapolis. How did you get connected with Paul?

DAY DAYZ: So the first time that I heard about Tall Paul, I was with my engineer, KC Golden, at Good Luck Studio. And we were introducing ourselves, and I was like, you know I'm Native American. And he was like, you ever heard of Tall Paul? And that just kind of opened up that conversation.

So then, a couple of months had gone by, and it was just a random Tuesday, Thursday night. And then I got a message from the man of the hour, and yeah, that he just wanted to work and he wanted to support me and what I was doing.

CATHY WURZER: Wow. And then what was the collaboration like?

DAY DAYZ: It's eye opening, just to the fact that just a small town kid within the short span of a year, your voice can be heard. Your story can be felt around the outskirts of where I'm from. That's just really opened my eyes on that fact.

CATHY WURZER: Mm-hmm. Say, I got to ask you about how you got into making music. I think it had probably a lot to do with your mom, I'm betting.

DAY DAYZ: Yeah, so my mom is a real big advocate for not really holding in your pain, but letting it out in a healthy way. So I kind of just like to exercise that with the form of music. In my early years, I kind of used music as a coping mechanism whenever I was feeling down.

Like I said, whenever something goes bad in life, it's your decision. How are you going to respond from it? Are you going to sit there and complain, mope around, or are you going to actually go and make a change? And that's what my mom is a big advocate for, is just releasing all that in a healthy way. And that's just-- music is the way for me.

CATHY WURZER: And it sounds like, just reading your background, that music has been really helpful to you because you've had some significant loss in your young life. And I'm sorry. I'm sorry you've had to go through that.

DAY DAYZ: Thank you. Yeah, I lost my father to a drug overdose when I was 15 years old. So just to pay respect for him, I wanted to break the assist record at my high school my 10th grade year, and I managed to do so. And then with that, I also wrote him a couple songs. Just like I said, I'm big on a quote that I live by, a quote that I heard, and it's in this life, you either win or you learn. And if you didn't learn, you lost twice.

CATHY WURZER: Hmm, yeah, exactly. And you mentioned basketball also being kind of an outlet for you. I thought I read that you launched a new club basketball team?

DAY DAYZ: Yes, I started my very own AAU basketball team. It's called FTS. And what FTS stands for is From The Sticks. So what I like to do with my kids is I encourage small town kids. I got kids from Red Lake. I got kids from Hinckley, just kids that are from areas that don't really have a lot of exposure. That's really what FTS stands for. And, yeah, our first tournament is April 12th in Minneapolis, so we're getting ready for that.

CATHY WURZER: [LAUGHS] All right, excellent. I'm so glad to hear that. Say, I want to play some more music if that's OK. I'm going to play a clip from a song that you made, and I believe this was with rapper Montana of 300. Is that right?

DAY DAYZ: Yes, yes, the man of the hour for real.

CATHY WURZER: Yeah. It's called "Please Don't Forget Me." And congratulations. It has more than 43,000 listens on Spotify. So let's listen to it right now.


DAY DAYZ: (SINGING) I've been fighting for so long

My feelings been long gone

I'll whisper it until you hear me

My ways have been so wrong

Express it through my songs

I love my rhyme and so they envy

Like can you be my home

The place I can count on

Before I met you, I said I was empty

Before I met you, I said I was empty

So please don't, please don't forget me

I wonder will you miss me

CATHY WURZER: How did this song come about? Tell me.

DAY DAYZ: So, it was just one night. You know, that 3:00 AM motivation hits different sometimes. You'll catch yourself up later at night, and it was just one of them nights where I was hearing this song. I was listening to it. I was like, I feel like this is one song that I need. I need a big artist for it.

And then, so yeah, I reached out to Montana of 300's manager, and he responded quick, within like 20 minutes. So from then, we just went step by step, just trying to get the song together, trying to get his track on there. And then, yeah, we ended up shooting the music video for it like a month later.

CATHY WURZER: Wow. I bet you learned a lot from him.

DAY DAYZ: Yeah, just growing up, too, I learned a lot from his music. And just all the things that he's rapped about, I like to just put that and just bring that into my everyday life. So yeah, Montana of 300's music changed my life for the better.

CATHY WURZER: Do you think it's maybe hard for you to be-- you sound like you're a very humble person. Do you think your music has changed the lives of others who have been listening to you? Maybe that's your hope?

DAY DAYZ: Yeah, I like to think so. Whenever I drop a song, it's never really about the views. It's just about me just wanting to change one person's life. One thing that I always try to say is I'd rather have four quarters than 100 pennies. If I could just change four people's lives, and if they're really taking in the song, learning something from it, I'm doing something right, you know?

CATHY WURZER: Right. Say, I know you're busy, too. You have an album coming out this summer? Wow, that's a lot of work.

DAY DAYZ: Yeah, so I'll take this time to announce that June, my first debut album will be dropping. Not sure about the name of the album yet, but so far, we're going to work-- we're working on over 10 tracks to put on that album.

CATHY WURZER: Oh, that's a lot of work, but June. Wow, that is exciting. Congratulations.

DAY DAYZ: Thank you. Thank you.

CATHY WURZER: Yeah. Now, I also want to say that this video we've been talking about, "Right Now," it drops on YouTube at 1 o'clock this afternoon in just about a minute and a half here. So you have got a lot going on, I'm telling you, Day.

DAY DAYZ: Yeah, I try to stay busy. That's the way of life, you know.

CATHY WURZER: It is. I'm really so honored you took the time to talk with me. Thank you so much, and all the best to you. All the best to you.

DAY DAYZ: Thank you. And before I go, I just want to give a shout out to a special individual from Mille Lacs.


DAY DAYZ: I would like to shout out Virgil Wind for being elected chief of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. Yesterday was our election day. Today is his day.

CATHY WURZER: All right.

DAY DAYZ: It's his day today.

CATHY WURZER: There you go. Thank you for that announcement. Day, take care of yourself.

DAY DAYZ: Yeah, you as well. Thank you.

CATHY WURZER: Thank you. Day Dayz is a hip hop artist from the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe's reservation. You can find him on Spotify, TikTok, Instagram. Search D-A-Y D-A-Y-Z, and check out that brand new video.

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