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Arts & Culture ᐊᔨᐦᑐᐧᐃᓐ

Cree rap group The NorthStars releases new song with important message

BY Juliette Danger Feb 13, 2020

Nemaska’s rap duo The NorthStars recently debuted a new song and music video dedicated to the struggles of Indigenous youth.

The single, titled Monsters, explores challenging themes surrounding substance abuse, depression and suicide.

The group, made up of musicians Elton J. Salt and Gary Jolly, says their motivation behind the new release is to confront the inner demons and monsters that Indigenous youth face, while acknowledging that they must overcome them.

“We wanted to find a way to reach out to every one of the youth and try to really connect with them,” explained Salt. “To show them that there’s more than one person who feels the way they do.”

The song and accompanying music video feature detail depictions of the heavy toll that depression and substance abuse can have on a person’s everyday life.

“The music video shows an example of someone going through alcoholism, family problems and suicidal thoughts,” explains Jolly. “It shows how a person battles their own demons in their mind and outside of it, and how you have to fight back against the depression and suicidal thoughts that are lurking.”

Monsters is featured on the NorthStars’ upcoming album Nightmares, scheduled to be released in March. The new album, a follow-up to their last titled Dreams, offers a contrasting take on the lived realities and struggles faced by themselves and their Cree community members.

“We did a motivational speech in Chisasibi where we spoke in front of the school,” recalls Salt. “I had the crowd close their eyes and asked if any of them felt alone or like they had nobody to talk to. At least half the room raised their hands.

“That’s when I realized this was the direction we had to go in for the album. Even if it’s just saying what these kids feel, they need this type of outlet and recognition that it’s not just them feeling this way.”

The group hopes that by confronting these difficult themes head-on, they will spark meaningful discussion and change surrounding these issues.

“I think people will be surprised by the content of the new album,” commented David Hodges, general manager of the group and owner of Nwe Jinan Records. “It’s a powerful glimpse into the world of mental health.”

The group has spent the last four years working on the album. “They’ve connected with a lot of youth throughout the process, and they’ve seen how their own lives are reflected in many of the lives of these kids,” says Hodges.

The release represents more for The NorthStars than just musical success. The album is just one of the many developments the group has achieved through the Nwe Jinan Emerging Artist Program.

The program mentors Indigenous youth and artists in acquiring the tools and resources needed to produce music, while also teaching the fundamentals of business needed to make a living off their art.

Under the program, The NorthStars gained important experience in the business practices they needed to independently run their own record label, Northstars Records, Inc.

“Dave’s been there since the start and he’s been a major help. We’re so grateful to him and everyone who’s helped us along the way,” said Jolly.

Monsters is available for download and streaming on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and Amazon.

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Juliette Danger is a writer and media-creator living in Montreal.  She studied communications at Concordia University and currently works as a Marketing Director at an Indigenous communications agency.