Bringing the music home

New hip-hop album tackles issues of belonging


“It’s Navajo for ‘remembering the heart,’” Cecil Tso, a hip-hop producer, explained about the title of the first song on his first solo album. “Hajéí Béédahaniih” was his way of trying to inspire his young Navajo listeners to learn the language.

Cecil Tso

“I can’t speak Navajo,” he said. “I know they say it’s dying off and it’s really sad.” The idea for the project is about his experience of moving away from the reservation and longing to be back home.

“At the time it was the thought of getting away from the rez,” Tso said. “The whole feeling of being trapped — financially trapped. Not going anywhere, stagnant.”

Tso was living with his grandparents in Grand Falls, Arizona, who adopted him after his mother passed when he was 11 years old. It was a rural community with limited access to work. He tried to get a job in Flagstaff but employers were hesitant because he didn’t live in the area. He attended college for a bit but it wasn’t a good fit for him.

During this time, he found music. “It’s become a sense of purpose in life,” Tso said. His musical career began six years ago, when he and his friends decided to create a music group. They were called An Illustrated Mess. He was supposed to rap with them but was more inclined to beat making.

“I was more interested in the actual process of everything,” he said. It was also a way for him to express his emotions in a healthy way. “I’m a textbook introvert and music is how I work my way past that,” he explained.

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Categories: Music
Tags: Cecil Tso

About Author

Pauly Denetclaw

Pauly Denetclaw is Meadow People born for Towering House People. She was raised in Manuelito and Naschitti, New Mexico. She was the co-recipient of the Native American Journalist Association's 2016 Richard LaCourse Award for Investigative Reporting. Denetclaw is currently finishing her degree in multimedia journalism from the University of New Mexico - Main. Denetclaw covers a range of topics including genetic research, education, health, social justice issues and small businesses. She loves coffee, writing and being with her family. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Her handle is @pdineclah