Northern Quebec artists among nominees at 1st International Indigenous Hip Hop Awards

Three Cree hip hop acts out of Quebec are up for several awards at the first International Indigenous Hip Hop Awards, including Hip Hop Album of the Year and Songwriter of the Year.

“We didn’t think we would be nominated for the category Hip Hop Album of the Year, but we were very excited because it’s the International Indigenous [Hip Hop] Awards and it’s another level of exposure and to be known in the world,” said Steve Einish, who manages the group Violent Ground.

The Montreal-based group is composed of two brothers, Allan and Christian Nabinacaboo.

This is the International Indigenous Hip Hop Awards show’s inaugural year. The ceremony will be virtual.

Organizers hope the awards will grow into an important showcase of the vibrant Indigenous hip hop music scene.

The NorthStars will perform during the virtual awards show on May 23. (The NorthStars)

“Hip hop is a very beautiful culture, a very diverse culture, and Indigenous hip hop is an amazing part of the hip hop family,” said Chris Sharpe, an organizer and marketing director for the awards.

The event includes the awards show, as well as a trade show that will help artists showcase their brands, said Sharpe. 

“A lot of the messages within Indigenous hip hop are very conscious, very awake. What I mean by that is like, a lot of the messages are about the missing and murdered Indigenous women, messages about the environment, respecting people, coming together, and those messages need to be heard,” he said. 

“We really do feel that Indigenous hip hop’s message will help heal people, and also be able to bring more people to hip hop culture.”

A lot of the messages within Indigenous hip hop are very conscious, very awake.– Chris Sharpe, International Indigenous Hip Hop Awards marketing director

Another of the Cree nominees is from the small community of Nemaska in northern Quebec.

The NorthStars, made up of Elton John Salt and Gary Jolly, are nominated for two awards, including Hip Hop Single of the Year for Monsters, the first single off their album Nightmares. The song made it to number five on the Indigenous Music Countdown last summer.

They’re also up for songwriter of the year for their first album, Dreams.

“The opportunity to be recognized internationally, it’s a huge opportunity for us,” Salt said.

“Hopefully we break down the doors and pave the way for future generations to be acknowledged, to get the recognition we all feel we deserve. We have so much talent here on Cree territory.”

Paul Napash is nominated for Producer of the Year for the song Fist In The Air featuring: K.A.S.P and Lil Mike and FunnyBone. (Paul Napash)

Paul Napash is also a Cree nominee. He’s a producer and recording artist from the Cree Nation of Chisasibi in Quebec.

Napash is nominated for producer of the year for the song Fist In The Air featuring: K.A.S.P and Lil Mike and FunnyBone. K.A.S.P is from British Columbia, while Lil Mike and Funnybone are from Oklahoma.

Napash said he enjoys collaborating with artists from a distance.

“Online is where I collaborate with others, wherever they are — not so much face to face. My partner and I have a studio in Ottawa, that is where I record and make beats. It is still fun even if I am alone,” said Napash.

Nemaska’s The NorthStars started out recording music in closet spaces.

“We were always dreaming about one day owning a studio and actually having people all over the Cree Nation come to record in the studio,” said Salt. “Here we are today, we’re sitting in the studio that we’ve been working hard to get and it’s such a huge blessing.”

Travelling, doing shows and meeting people at festivals has enabled The NorthStars to build a fan base.

The International Indigenous Hip Hop Awards will be hosted virtually out of Winnipeg on May 22 and 23.

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