Northern rapper and artist Dylan Jones, aka Crook the Kid, is bringing his new album to NACC on Friday.
“I’m from a small community close to the Arctic Circle on the side of the Mackenzie River called Fort Good Hope or Radilih Koe by its traditional name, meaning ‘place by the rapids,’” said Jones.
He first got into music by playing guitar.
“A guy named Kenny Shae initially taught me the first things I ever knew about music,” he said.
Many people in the 500-strong, fly-in community identified with rap and hip-hop music growing up, including Jones.
“Because of the isolation, because some of the socio-economic issues and the general strifes that we share as a community, hip-hop music really resonates among young people there,” he said.
His new album Locals Only is inspired by his life in the Sahtu and the hardships that came with it. But he also touches on the natural beauty of his home and Metis culture.
“I come from a small community full of people who never really had s*** so I represent them specifically,” said Jones. “And like I said, speak on behalf of those who are my support system and then I try to be that for them. But I also do pursue education as proof that you can take another avenue out of the hood and you can go out and learn something, you can get a normal job, you can get something for yourself. It’s not so far-fetched that it can’t happen.”
It’s different for generations now, but when he was growing up in Fort Good Hope, he said there was nothing for youth.
“There was no reason to expect you were going to leave those same exact dirt roads,” he said.
Like many others in his generation, Jones said he began needing an outlet.
“So for whatever reason, instead of internalizing my story and probably f***ing killing myself with it, I decided to turn it into something,” said Jones.
That something happened to be rap music, which Jones used to bring his story and his home to a larger audience. He just returned from MEGAPHONO music festival in Ottawa which celebrates emerging artists and connects them with industry professionals.
“I’m actually not even allowed to tell you what I’ve been booked for, but insane things,” said Jones. “I can tell you that little me from Fort Good Hope is now booked for some of the largest things this country offers, as well as a couple other countries.”
Northern artists have one of the only original stories left in this country and need to be able to compete with artists from the south, he said. A good place to start would be creating a booking agency specifically for Northern artists to even the playing field and help remove some of the economic barriers they face.
“There’s two separate Canadas in this country that most people are just starting to realize,” said Jones.
“The first Canada is where I just flew in from, Ottawa. The second Canada is where I’m from, which is a third-world country by every single definition.”
Many southerners experience culture shock when they first move North. But Yellowknife is just the tip of that iceberg, said Jones.
“The only reason you can start seeing that third-world presence in Yellowknife is because there’s a lot of people from other communities that left having no f***ing clue, no back-up, no nothing,” he said.
“[They] just knew they couldn’t stay in a s*** hole place where their housing unit isn’t a viable place to live. There’s no f***ing jobs to be had, so what are you going to do? Are you going to join the statistics of suicide that we have so high up in our North? Some people leave and they get thinking that ‘oh the city will be friendly,’ but you just have no understanding of what you’re going to find down there. Up in the Arctic communities, it is truly third-world. Here we touch on it, but it’s only because Yellowknife interacts with the arctic communities, it’s not because of Yellowknife itself. Yellowknife is a golden, conglomerated area, it’s diamonds and government s***, right, this is the f***ing Northwest Territories Kremlin town. So Yellowknife is not who I’m trying to save. I’m trying to help a group of people who want a life and are not just getting a chance, but you don’t have a f***ing option, you don’t get one. And there’s no help unless you do stuff like this.”
Art is arguably one of the last outlets to truly reach people and affect meaningful change, said Jones.
“It doesn’t fall victim to standards and industry,” he said.
“Art is however you say it is, as the creator of it. You can still make real art. Perhaps you can’t draft a f***ing bill change request to the government but you can make something that speaks so heavily about your message or where you’re from, that it causes someone who does change bills and who does have interactions with the prominent, that it will change their mind and get them on your team. ”
Crook the Kid will perform at the NACC on Friday, February 22.
The show will be different from other NACC shows. Seating is optional and the audience is encouraged to get close to the stage and dance to the music.
Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors and students.