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From the Runway to the Studio: Meet the Lak̇ot̄a Rapper Who's Traveling the World

by Robert Bordeaux

A person singing into a microphone, eyes closed. They have one of their arms raised and a finger pointing up.
Photo Credit: Thunder Revolution / Courtesy of Gunner Jules
Lakota rapper and artist, Gunner Jules, recording vocals as a collaborator in "Good People," a song by British folk band Mumford & Sons and Pharrell Williams.

Music has been a connector and motivator for Gunner Jules. It's taken him overseas and around the country for youth workshops and collaborative projects.

Gunner Jules, a Siċaƞġu Lak̇ot̄a rapper and artist, took the runway at the Louis Vuitton Men’s Fall/Winter show during the Paris Fashion Week in January 2024. “It was really a ‘right place at the right time’ moment,” shares Jules, who calls Rosebud Reservation home.

Two people stand next to each other, with clasped hands. One person is wearing a wide brimmed hat, denim jacket and jeans with beaded jewelry. The other person is wearing a baseball hat backwards and a sporty multicolor jacket.
Photo Credit: Thunder Revolution / Courtesy of Gunner Jules
Renowned producer and musician Pharrell Williams (left) and rapper Gunner Jules.

He was in Paris to collaborate with renowned folk band Mumford & Sons for a musical performance. Jules is among five other Native artists featured on single “Good People” with the British group and famed musician-producer Pharrell Williams.

This Parisian moment goes beyond personal achievement for Jules. “These opportunities break barriers for Native artists, models, and musicians. Our presence on this grand stage, showcasing our traditional music, dances, and talents creates a ripple effect, educating the world about our existence and inspiring us all to pursue our dreams,” he shares. It’s always an honor to represent my people and my family. Lak̇ot̄a people seldom envision themselves in those spaces. It seems so far away.”

He shares that he’s “found joy in music’s social aspect, travel, and its power to create change and inspire.” Jules has been a part of artist collectives such as Dream Warriors & ALLSZN, who often share space with Native youth in various communities to inspire those who want to make music. His advice to young musicians: “Pursue it for the right reasons, and you’ll go further than you can imagine. Additionally, explore diverse roles within the arts; it’s not just about being in the spotlight, it takes a team.”

Music has been a connector and motivator for Jules, who spends his time in Rosebud, one of the nine Indian reservations in South Dakota. It’s taken him overseas and he’s been able to travel across the country for youth workshops and collaborative projects. “By traveling, seeing these studio spaces, and meeting the people and artists, I realized that everyone has something to bring to the table,” he says. “It gave me a new perspective of what is obtainable and how small the world is … I really hold on to those moments of inspiration to hold me over until the next one.”

To Jules, with travel becoming an integral part of his work, home is more than a physical place; it’s a feeling of peace and comfort rooted in family, friends, and community. “I’m a father and every day am presented with new challenges to become better and learn more about myself, my roles and responsibilities, and prioritizing what’s most important,” he shares. “My experiences have given me hope that we can and will create better homes for our people.”

A group of people smiling and standing close to each other as they pose for a photo.
Photo Credit: Thunder Revolution / Courtesy of Gunner Jules
Mumford & Sons recorded their song “Good People” with Indigenous musicians and Pharrell Williams.

As for Native representation in mainstream media, he sees progress being made in spaces built on mutual respect. “Many people outside of our “realm” don’t understand where we come from, how we operate, and how talented we all are. It’s slowly changing as more artists/actors/models/creatives are representing and sharing our narratives in spaces that weren’t created for us,” he says.

Jules has been advocating for the need to build spaces by and for Native communities. “I can only hope to share and be a catalyst to create spaces and change at home … I envision a future where the Rosebud Reservation has a space to channel and showcase our collective creative energy for our youth and community.”