To hear Halfsmoked and see videos of his live performances, visit myspace.com/akreignentertainment.
Story last updated at 5/27/2009 - 11:01 am
SITKA - First they were thoughts, and then they were poems. Now, Loren Sands has turned to hip-hop and R&B music both as an outlet for himself and for the entertainment of others.
Growing up in Angoon, Sands and his cousin, David Johnson, would rap along to the popular music of the time. But it wasn't until Johnson gifted a rhyming dictionary to Sands and told him to "start writing rhymes" that he discovered his passion for creating music of his own. The two would hang out at "all hours of the night" making beats and turning their poems into songs.
Sands now goes by the name Halfsmoked, a title given to him by his grandfather when he was a child. The name refers to his half-Tlingit heritage, comparing him to a half cooked piece of fish in a smoke house.
Strong musical roots exist on both sides of Sands' family. His father is a drummer and his mother is a singer. Her vocal talents are featured on one of Sands' songs, "Revelations."
Sands has recently been writing many songs that honor his Native heritage, using Tlingit words and phrases in his lyrics. Though Sands knows very little of the language, he said he is eager to learn more. In his song, "Do It Big Native," he encourages his people to do whatever they do to the best of their abilities. "Put Your Hands Up" encourages listeners to be proud of what they believe in and who they are. Sands said the song is "for the Native people."
Sands spent a few years between Seattle and Boise and only returned to his previous home of Sitka this January. While he was in the lower 48, he played at many well-known venues and opened for artists such as the Yin Yang Twins. Despite his success, he felt the need to return to Alaska, the place that inspired him in the first place.
"It has helped me to come back to my roots," Sands said. "Down there I was adapting to my surroundings and rapping about things I wasn't really experiencing."
Since his homecoming, Sands has been writing new songs at the rate of about three per month. In April, Sands, Johnson and their friend, James Bradley, had the opportunity to open for Litefoot, a Native American rapper of mixed Cherokee and Chichimeca ancestry who performed in Sitka.
"The thing that drives me the most is my passion for music," Sands said. "Ever since I got that first rhyme book, I've just loved to be able to express myself through music."
Sands has taken that passion and has opened up a recording studio in Sitka where he helps others record and "release their inner artist."
"I not only want to make music, I want to help other people make music," Sands said.
Sands' future plans include hosting dances, shows and barbeques in Sitka and around Southeast Alaska.