At only 19 years old, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez has already made his impact on this earth in an incredible way. The indigenous rapper and producer is far more than just an artist, he’s a climate advocate who refuses to let the world crumble in front of him. The Break Free recording artist feels it’s his duty to educate and teach the masses that all life is sacred and connected, honoring his ancestors in the process.
His accomplishments include addressing the United Nations, serving as Youth Director of Earth Guardians, leading conservation initiatives back home in Boulder, suing the federal government over oil and gas developments, writing a book (We Rise), modeling, and still finding time to create substantial, meaningful hip-hop for his fans. As consumers of content, media, and products, Xiuhtezcatl hopes to take the initiative to create change and shift the culture.
Born in Colorado but moving to Mexico at 6 months old, Martinez has involved himself in environmental social justice movements his entire life, which have played a huge role in how he interacts with his surroundings. “I’m very passionate about the world we’re building together as a generation,” he states, as evidenced through his art, his actions, his ability to connect movements, and his unwavering desire to inspire and empower young people to get involved.
Keeping his identity afloat is one of his biggest priorities. Growing up, the spectre of European conquest always hung in the distance, leading directly to an urgency to salvage his family’s indigenous roots. “The perspective I carry and the way I view the world—my father is Mexika. We’re some of the indigenous people of Mexico City. My great grandmother was one of the last generations in our family who spoke the native language. I grew up very surrounded in the ceremony and teachings. That was a part of my life every single day.”
While most teenagers may be busy studying at school, playing sports, or hanging out with friends, Xiuhtezcatl is homeschooled—although his knowledge and efforts go far beyond what the textbooks can teach. “We’re taught to reach for the stars. But when you look at how the world really is, that’s not so much the case. There’s a lot of adversity and sadness. That’s definitely been a challenge in my life and art has given me the opportunity to own that.”
On “Young,” he raps I’m young and I’m positive, two things that I’ve never not been. But growing up in a world so cold, it made it hard for a kid to not lose hope. While embracing optimism is becoming less common with youth, it’s necessary to be hopeful.
Through songs like “Boombox Warfare,” featuring Jaden Smith, and “Magic,” listeners can trace his genuine spiritual connection to his ancestry in all that he does. While some would naturally call Xiuhtezcatl an activist, he actually finds the label constricting, calling it ‘frustrating.’ “I refuse to be put into a specific box,” he states. “I’m a part of a generation that—unlike any generation before us—has had tools to organize ourselves and connect to the world.”
On top of all modeling, music, and humanitarian efforts, Xiuhtezcatl stresses the importance of being normal. He loves good food, cliff-jumping, skiing, dancing, and wilding out with friends. This includes being vulnerable and admitting that, when life sucks, it sucks.
Still, his humility shines deeper than one can articulate. In 2013, he received the United States Community Service Award from President Obama—and still Martinez aims for new heights.
“I’m grateful when Presidents and significant people acknowledge young people for the work being done. At the same time, I felt let down by so much of the failure to act that was promised, but never brought into reality, by Obama. He did a lot of great stuff, but I wish he honored me and honored the young people of this country with stronger action, not with an award.”
In a decade, Xiuhtezcatl plans to be “on top of the world.” The crazy part is, he’s just getting started. “2019 is about to be the biggest year. I’m beyond stoked. I have huge dreams and visions of selling out world tours, selling out stadiums.”
Don’t slow down, catch up. This isn’t just about hearing the music, it’s about igniting a fire within all of us to do what’s best for the universe and humanity as a whole.
Photographed and Flaunt Film Directed by: Alix Spence.