Arts & Entertainment | Canada

Vice: Hip-hop artist Drezus on new journey after jail sentence

Drezus. Photo from Aboriginal People's Choice Awards

Vice profiles Drezus, a Native hip-hop artist from Canada who has a new perspective on life after serving time in prison on drug charges:
Since a teenager, when he earned the nickname “Biggie” for his chubby stature and ability to freestyle, Drezus has been winning people over with his rap skills. In the 00s, he landed a deal with EMI as part of the group Team Rezofficial, whose single “Lonely” topped MuchMusic’s countdown (basically Canada’s version of TRL) for four weeks. More recently, his 2013 album Red Winter has received multiple prizes from Native organizations, and videos for the songs “Red Winter” and “Warpath” have racked up around a hundred thousand views each on YouTube. Yet even as Drezus achieves these successes, he faces a larger question of whether he can be seen as more than a niche artist—or if that’s even something he needs to do.

Only once you listen to its lyrics closely do you realize that “Warpath,” Drezus’s latest single, is about his Native heritage. At first take, it comes off like a more standard trap anthem, complete with stuttering 808 drums, a thudding bass line and Drezus’s baritone bark. Drezus can sell this sound—after all, he spent much of his career making tough gangster rap that reflected his life in the streets selling drugs.

But “Warpath” tells a different story than its sound lets on. Its lyrics revolve around spiritualism and overcoming adversity, with lines like, “They left our people broken, but homie don’t play the possum.” And its video shows Drezus channeling his Cree forefathers by standing in front of a tipi in colored buckskins and traditional warrior paint and pounding on a drum made of birch wood. Both the song and video, he says, were meant to give hope to Native men, who often struggle with self-confidence and get into crime as a result.

“I just wanted to be like, ‘Yo be strong. We don’t have to be selling dope or stabbing people. We have a bigger fight to take on.”

Get the Story:
Drezus Walks: Meet the Native American Rapper Merging Old Sounds and New (Vice 10/29)