Indigenous rappers give youth sobriety pep talk

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Motivational speaker Mike Scott and hip-hop group BrownCanShine combined forces at NACC Tuesday to deliver a message of hope and sobriety to youth from Yellowknife, Dettah and Ndilo.

Mike Scott, left, Lawrence Brass and Dwayne Brass, right, (BrownCanShine) at the NACC theatre about to present to youth from Yellowknife, Dettah and Ndilo about their life experiences dealing with and growing up in small communities outside of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Brett McGarry/NNSL Photo
Mike Scott, left, Lawrence Brass and Dwayne Brass, right, (BrownCanShine) at the NACC theatre about to present to youth from Yellowknife, Dettah and Ndilo about their life experiences dealing with and growing up in small communities outside of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
Brett McGarry/NNSL Photo

Mike Scott’s presentation, called Finding the Warrior Within, drew inspiration from his troubled youth at Sturgeon First Nation near Saskatoon, Sask.

From growing up with parents who suffered trauma in residential schools to telling stories of his family members with substance abuse problems, Scott said the suffering was rampant is his communities.

“The death of almost every one of my family members was related to substance abuse,” Scott said.

At five years old, various forms of abuse in his home lead to him being sent to foster care.

“I went from home to home, not knowing what happened to my brothers, to my sisters, and as a little kid it makes you feel so empty and down on yourself,” Scott said.

Scott said as he got older he began associating with criminals and eventually ended up in jail.

It wasn’t until he was in his twenties, when he had a daughter and after his mother passed, that he was able to get the help he needed and get sober.

“Suppressing emotions is what leads to addictions and problems that are destroying our communities,” Scott said.

He pointed to the high rates of Indigenous incarceration in Canada and in the foster care system, while delivering a message about becoming the change you wanted to see in your communities.

“If you want to see these numbers go down to zero, you have to make yourself better and the community will follow,” Scott said.

BrownCanShine, a hip-hop duo made up of Dwayne and Lawrence Brass, also from the Saskatoon area, performed with of songs about their life experiences. Lawrence said their core message is rooted in messages of prosperity for Indigenous youth.

“Our name comes from the ‘Saskatoon Shines’ slogan, so we use that as our background because we’re brown from the city that shines and we see that is a positive message for First Nations youth,” Lawrence Brass said.

“We come from a poverty stricken part of the hood and and want to show that we can shine to and we have gifts and talents like everybody else.”
Lawrence said giving up alcohol was a turning point for him and his brother, which allowed them to pursue careers in music and entertainment.

Now all three have been working together, presenting these messages to youth in “hundreds of communities” across Canada.

“We’re out here sharing personal stories about things we’ve been through in our lives, hoping to inspire as many people as we can to show what addictions do to families and individuals,” Scott said.

But the message they want to deliver is not limited to Indigenous youth.

“We speak to a lot of Indigenous communities but the message is for everyone,” Scott said.

“Addiction doesn’t care what colour you are or how rich you are or what background you’re from, this message for anybody who deals with addictions. You can come from any background and choose to live a better life.”

Now Scott says he’s in his second year of university taking Indigenous studies with a book on the way next year, while Dwayne Brass recently graduated from an audio engineering course.

BrownCanShine are now collectively working on a new album and music videos while continuing to travel and perform across the country.

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