Diné lyrical artist Def-i taking up space worldwide

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TWIN LAKES, N.M. – Christopher Mike-Bidtah is carving out his Def-i image in the hip-hop scene.

Mike-Bidtah, known by his stage name Def-i, is a Diné hip-hop artist-educator, rapper, and producer. He’s received multiple awards for his poetic rapport and leadership, such as the 2023 New Mexico Male Artist of the Year, The Hustle Award, and the U.S. Hip-Hop Cultural Ambassador (with Next Level USA), respectively. In a couple of weeks, he’ll be a “showcasing artist” for the 2024 SXSW (South by Southwest) Music Festival in Austin, Texas.

The festival brings together artists, industry professionals, and music lovers from around the world to make connections, elevate their careers, and celebrate the magic of live music, according to the SXSW website.

This is a massive win for Def-i because he will represent the Navajo Nation at the festival.

Mike-Bidtah is Naakaii Dine’é and born for Táchii’nii. His maternal grandfather is Hooghan Łání, and his paternal grandfather is Tábąąhá. He is the son of Pandora Mike and the late Lawrence Burt Bidtah. His grandparents are the late Eddie Mike-Bidtah and Diana Mike. He’s originally from Shiprock but resides in Albuquerque.

Building with hip-hop communities

Christopher Mike-Bidtah was awarded the New Mexico Male Artist of the Year and The Hustle Award during the 2023 New Mexico Hip-Hop Awards on Jan. 20 in Santa Fe.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” Def-i said of his recent triumphs. “Being able to gain not just the respect but also (building) a career.”

It’s a blessing to be among talented artists and recognized at a state hip-hop scene, said Mike-Bidtah, who could be the first Diné artist to “showcase” at the SXSW Music Festival.

“The reservation sometimes (goes) unrecognized,” he added. With a pool of many recognized talents, he wants everyone to shine.

Mike-Bidtah last month traveled to Paris to build with the Parisian hip-hop community and conduct rapper, or “MC” workshops alongside other hip-hop ambassadors.

Working alongside those ambassadors was surreal because they work with celebrity artists like Busta Rhymes, Mariah Carey, and Lupe Fiasco, said Mike-Bidtah.

“Hip-hop is definitely doing some crazy directions right now and it’s become so big, especially out in Europe,” Mike-Bidtah said. “I think our country really could step it up in terms of, like, hip-hop community.”

He recently returned home to the Navajo Nation from Paris to share his last moments with his father, Lawrence Burt Bidtah, who passed away on Feb. 15.

Naat’áanii Nééz strong

The compelling artist is an experienced youth workshop provider. His commitment to cultural preservation allows him to embrace stories and experiences

Growing up in Shiprock where he attended Shiprock High School, Christopher Mike-Bidtah immersed himself in the hip-hop culture.

It was then he could perform and travel with his best friend, the late Andrew Martinez, who was known as New Mexico hip-hop artist Wake Self.

The two were inseparable growing up together but were able to create a space for future artists. The New Mexico hip-hop culture took a hard hit when Wake Self was killed by a drunk driver in 2019.

“Him (Wake Self) and I were fully immersed into hip-hop,” Mike-Bidtah said. “We were missing school events and prom to be out battling and performing at a young age.”

The alternative route led Mike-Bidtah to continue to carry Martinez’s legacy and his own.

“Him (Wake Self) and I were two MCs, and we joined this Native hip-hop all-elements crew called ‘Foundations of Freedom,’” Mike-Bidtah said. The Foundations of Freedom group appreciates the importance of hip-hop and the cultural aspect of Native artists.

“Find collaborators,” Mike-Bidtah suggests to the youth. “(Find) like-minded individuals that vibe with you––that you can grow together, experience and adventure (together) in life.”

As an adolescent youth growing up in the Nation, hip-hop was a way to transcend a lot of the adversities Native people face.

Today, he said, it allows Native people to grow. “I fell in love with the hip-hop culture and seeing the parallels between ceremonies and hip-hop events,” Mike-Bidtah said. “I had a déjà vu, and I was pretty young, and it led me to this place where I rediscovered my artistic voice.”

Elemental levels

When looking back, Christopher Mike-Bidtah recalls open mics and talent shows that he was part of. Those moments were powerful dreams and now he can live up to them.

It allowed him to be more aware and to cultivate by evolving through music. “It led me across the world and back, so I’m just giving thanks for the opportunity,” Mike-Bidtah said. “Freestyle of natural flow state, you feel ‘free,’ and your style can go in all directions.”

With lyrical poet elements, he said, it becomes part of the community. Many lyricists that Mike-Bidtah grew up listening to had paved the way for him to believe in himself.

Artists like Michael Taylor Perretta, known professionally as Evidence, who Def-i said he admires because of the platform Evidence holds. On a few occasions, Evidence toured the Nation and other tribal lands when a collaborative group was traveling for one year.

“He (Evidence) produced music for Kanye West,” Mike-Bidtah said, adding he was really impressed by Evidence’s style as a producer and entrepreneur.

Additional artists he admires are John Percy Simon and Percee P, also known as The Rhyme Inspector, who Mike-Bidtah admires for his rap style and being a “high-level lyrical.”

The admiration and possibilities are endless for Mike-Bidtah.

He still needs to create a space to host hip-hop workshops in his stance and while out touring.

“When you are in a creative state of mind, it’s (almost) like the creator being creative,” Mike-Bidtah said. “Stay grounded (in) who you are and reach for your unlimited potential,” referring to the youth who may be on a path of unsureness. It led the multi-awarded artist to hold a space for the youth because he had been there before.

Growing up with supportive parents and being the prime examples of educators and mentors, he hopes to carry on their teachings and leadership to encourage and support future artists.

With a positive attitude, Mike Bidtah defies the elemental aspects of what a dream could turn into a reality if one believes in oneself.

He says it takes grind and grit to be where he is today, and if it weren’t for all the various artists he has met and the mentors he has had, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

This allowed him to see the world like places in Europe or Nigeria, where hip-hop has taken him.

Mike-Bidtah says stepping out of one’s comfort zone can be frightening. He encourages the youth to learn and read many books, which has helped him on his journey as an artist.

“But to always remember who you are,” Mike Bidtah said. Considering the amount of travel he does year-round, he finds himself burning cedar or sage to protect his energy.

“There’s a lot of power that was generated from the hip-hop movement,” he added. “For me, I was drawn to the love of words and language itself.”


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