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Parkston rap trio elevating to new heights

From left to right: Drake Pannkuk, Nick Bader and Jared Thomas, the three members of Elevated Rebellion pose for a photo in downtown Sioux Falls on Jan. 6. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

They used to walk the halls of Parkston High School, and now they're selling out some of Sioux Falls' most popular music venues with their vibrant hip-hop music.

Nick Bader, Jared Thomas and Drake Pannkuk are the members of Elevated Rebellion, a rap group that is making a name for itself on the state's hip-hop scene.

"We're brothers, and it's been a beautiful thing to connect with so many people from this state and all over the Midwest through our rap music," Bader said.

Having wrapped up their first tour in the fall of last year, the three Parkston natives covered plenty of ground, as Elevated Rebellion took the stages of music venues in North Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Colorado, in addition to their home stage.

"The tour was so much fun, but it was an important learning experience as well," Thomas said. "We got so much love during the tour, and it was crazy to see people from a totally different state listen to our music."

The Icon Lounge is a prominent music venue in Sioux Falls, known for hosting a myriad of big name music artists and rappers, with the likes of Machine Gun Kelly, E-40 and Rich Homie Quan.

Perhaps the biggest achievement in Elevated Rebellion's four years of existence came when the Icon chose the rap group to perform as the opening act for Machine Gun Kelly, a prominent rapper known for his popular tracks that have landed on the Billboard's Hot 100 music chart.

"That's when we felt like we made it," a proud Bader said of the opening slot. "I've always looked up to him as a rapper; it was a moment we'll never forget."

Not only has Elevated Rebellion shared the stage with rap giants, they've produced six music videos, which are posted on YouTube.

When Thomas isn't writing lyrics for new tracks and performing on stage with Elevated Rebellion, he usually has a camera in his hands, exploring the art of photography and videography. That passion has been a big benefit for the group, as he's constructed the music videos utilizing his computer software.

"I've always had a love for the camera, and it's something I have a passion for," Thomas said of his videography skills. "It helps get our name out there too, because everyone watches YouTube, which is where we upload our music videos."

Humble beginnings

But before the rap trio became Elevated Rebellion, they were kids growing up in a small town with a love for rap music.

While in high school, the three immersed themselves in hip-hop music, and started their first rap band with the name of Project 605. Although good memories were shared, Bader said their early years as Project 605 were tough because there wasn't much local support or interest in the group's genre of music.

"We always believed in ourselves, even when no one else did," Pannkuk said. "It was rap that inspired us to keep being creative and to never give up on this dream."

Despite the lack of support, the group credits their hometown for helping them focus on their rap dreams and ambitions, along with teaching them the value of hard work.

After graduating high school in 2012, Bader, Thomas and Pannkuk stayed true to their passion for hip-hop music, and began attracting attention after they all moved to Sioux Falls.

"We were invited to play in the Summer Strange Tour in 2013, and we felt the love from fans the very first time we stepped on stage," Bader said.

The group lost Pannkuk for about a year after he moved to Arizona in 2015, as he wanted to try living in a warmer climate. When Pannkuk returned to Sioux Falls, the rap trio picked up where they left off, playing shows at Sioux Falls music venues like the Icon Lounge, Bigs Bar and Tommy Jack's.

Using a new name and backed by a myriad of fans, Elevated Rebellion was turning heads in the Sioux Falls rap community. After electrifying fans with their opening act for Machine Gun Kelly in 2015, the offers to open for other big name rappers started pouring in.

"We've performed for some of the biggest names in the rap world," a proud Pannkuk said. "I think the energy we bring when we're on stage is unlike other rap group or rappers."

Acknowledging that igniting crowds during live performances is only part of the equation, Elevated Rebellion has also been diligently making mixtapes. They recently released their second mixtape with nine tracks titled, "Raise the Bar."

With their first music tour wrapped up and their second mixtape released, Elevated Rebellion has big plans for the future. They have upcoming shows scheduled in Sioux Falls and Mankato, Minnesota. And while rap music has helped the Parkston friends become brothers bound by music, their motivation lies within the fans.

"The biggest drive for us is to connect with people, and make them feel something when they listen to our music," Bader said.