By KYLE HOPKINS
Anchorage Daily News
Straight outta Fairbanks, it’s a musha named Braxton.
The inevitable collision between rap music and sled dog racing has arrived. Time to meet 25-year-old Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race rookie Braxton Peterson, a baby-faced hip-hop head who will be dreaming up lyrics even as he “gees” and “haws” his team across Alaska starting Sunday.
Peterson, along with 20-year-old Iditarod veteran Cain Carter, have launched a fledging rap duo called “The Musherz.” The pair work at one of the most-winning modern kennels in the sport, and in songs like “2 Feet on the Drag” and “Running All Night,” they rhyme about what they know.
“Now I’m twisting, dipping, winding, turning through the trees
Now I got my headlight off because I’m creeping on a team
Full moon reflected off the snow so I can see
He shut his headlight off because I think that he heard ME.”
One of Peterson’s top dogs is a husky named “Pimp.” But when these rappers use the “b-word,” they’re likely talking about famous sled dogs.
Cain is the step-son of four-time Iditarod winner Lance Mackey. Petersen met Mackey when he began dating the musher’s daughter as a teenager, and now works and trains with the Fairbanks champion.
Both are up-and-coming members of Mackey’s Comeback Kennel. Just look at their medallions.
Peterson and Carter each wear a jewel-studded chain bearing the kennel’s name and logo — a picture of Mackey’s face combined with a picture of the musher’s storied lead dog, Larry.
The pair bought the necklaces online from someone named “Pendant Paul,” Peterson said Wednesday in Knik. “It took him like two months to make. $2,200 later, we got them shipped.”
In black Dickies work pants and a Canada Goose vest, the musher sat beside his laptop in the home of Mackey’s brother, Jason. A few miles away are the historic Redington kennels.
Peterson prepared for his last-minute veterinarian check as Pimp, Boy Cuz and the rest of the dogs waited in a Dodge pickup that team Mackey won in a prior Iditarod.
“It’s easier to rap about what you know,” Peterson said. “And we’re not out in the streets selling drugs and all that. We’re out there on the trail, running dogs.”
The Musherz have performed at the Fairbanks mushers’ hall and assembled enough songs for a proper mixtape. Some tracks use instrumentals sampled from popular songs. Others are built on beats supplied by a Fairbanks producer and are radio and iTunes ready.
COUNTRY OR HIP-HOP?
Like any rappers, the young mushers even have beef with a rival racer.
An unreleased song, “Some Hate,” is a diss record aimed at Mackey’s neighbor and sometime rival Ken Anderson, Peterson said. While Mackey receives regular shout-outs in Musherz songs, he has yet to rhyme along with his apprentices.
“He has the start of some country song that he was writing on the trail,” Peterson said.
Mackey’s life could fill a jukebox of country tunes. One of the great mysteries of modern cable television is the lack of a Mackey kennel reality show.
Arguably the most well-known modern musher, Mackey was the first dog driver to win the sport’s premiere 1,000 mile races, the Yukon Quest and Iditarod, back-to-back. A throat cancer survivor, he is the only musher to win the Iditarod four times in a row.
He’s also something of a rock star.
In 2010, Iditarod officials acknowledged that new rules requiring drug-testing of mushers on the trail were prompted, at least in part, by competitors’ complaints about Mackey.
The musher had admitted to smoking pot in past races, but passed the drug test on his way to a 2010 victory. More recently, his wife was charged with assault in Anchorage and Mackey says he looks forward to a focusing on racing again as he returns to the trail this weekend.
'NEVER WASTE A MOVE’
Much of the Musherz music is simply about — surprise — mushing.
“Coming in the checkpoint, set the hook all eyes on me,” Peterson raps in “Running All Night.” “When I’m in the checkpoint, proficiency is key / Up and down the gangline, I never waste a move / So I’m taking off the booties, laying straw and starting food. / Now the dogs asleep so it’s time for me to go bed / I wake up in an hour and to the next checkpoint I head.”
The duo just need a few more beats, Peterson said. Maybe a producer.
But first comes the Iditarod. Cain finished 35th last year as the youngest musher in the field. Peterson, who says he plans to race, not camp in his inaugural run, will likely carry an iPhone full of Dr. Dre and Nelly, Tech N9ne and Kid Rock. Not too mention a collection of Musherz songs.
It would be too cold to wear the Mackey Kennel medallion on the trail, Peterson said. He’s focused instead on winning the belt buckle awarded to all first-time Iditarod finishers.
Twitter updates: twitter.com/iditarodlive. Call Kyle Hopkins at 257-4334 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.