Interview: Native American Rapper Joey Stylez Discusses His New Video "My Neechie", Upcoming Album and Indigenous Representation in Hip-Hop
Joey Stylez is a Native American rapper, as well as a visual artist, fashion designer, and social activist from Saskatoon. He is also the winner for Best Rap/Hip Hop Album last year at the Indigenous Music Awards and has just released his new single and video "My Neechie", the first track off his upcoming seventh LP, "The Star Chief". We connected with Joey for this exclusive interview for two main reasons; 1) his music is dope, and 2) he has a story that a lot of minorities in North America can relate to and it needs to be heard by as many people as possible.
After reading our Q&A with Joey Stylez be sure to follow him on his social media so you will know when it's time to stream/download "The Star Chief" and check out his official website. Lastly, watch "My Neechie" about ten times and share with your friends who appreciate dope visuals and a real message.
How did you get your start as an artist and who are some of your favorite artists?
Before I found hip hop, I was totally into The Beatles and The Doors. But, once I hit 11 years old, it was all about NWA, Ice T, and 2pac. That voice and message of anti-oppression really got me hooked. The stories of their hardships were stories I had seen first hand amongst my own people here in Canada.
Describe what it means to be an indigenous emcee from the standpoint that when people outside of your community hear your music or see your visuals, you represent a whole nation. How important is it for you to represent the Cree-Metis nation?
That's a tricky question. I define myself by my roots, but at the same time I don't want my culture to be a gimmick. I try to present myself in a way that comes across as natural, but still looks and sounds fly. There are lots of artists jumping on horses and sitting in tipis, but that's not their everyday life and is sort of in the questionable pile in my eyes. I let my lifestyle be the content for my music and visuals. I really live a lot of my life by the old ways, so you'll find traces of that sprinkled in my work.
Tell us about your new single "My Neechie". Why did you decide to make this the song that you lead off with from your upcoming album "The Star Chief"?
To me as an artist, it's our duty to stand against the system that has historically been flawed, and “My Neechie” was just the right song to set the tone of the album. In the prairie region of Canada where I grew up, there is a real divide between the Native American and the Caucasian communities that’s like Cowboys & Indians. Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine* were two young First Nation people who were murdered in cold blood, and the cops and judicial system really let us down by finding their confessed murderers innocent.
*Story on Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/tina-fontaine-colten-boushie-justice-denied-1.4549469
What can you tell us about "The Star Chief" in terms of a release and where we will able to stream/download it when it drops?
The Star Chief was made to sound pleasing to the ear, but the theme is all about duality: hot & cold, hate & love, light & dark, and so on. Everything has an opposite. As a Plains Cree, we are the original inhabitants of the Americas and my tribe is often referred to as the Star People, so the title just felt right and matches where I'm at in life right now. I'm really proud of this project, so I will make sure that it's easy to find on all the main outlets. Spotify, YouTube, Google Play, Apple Music, and SoundCloud. It's important to make sure the people have easy access to our body's of work as a service to our following.
Why is social activism important to you and if you could change one thing about how the media portrays the indigenous community in Canada (or North America, in general), what would it be?
It's what I signed up for in this life. My holy teacher told me, “We all play for one or the other team whether we like it or not," referring to good and evil and I chose to serve love and light. I guess my message and goal is to restore balance, which is what the medicine wheel teaches us. The black, white, red, and yellow humans of the world living in harmony. We are all indigenous to someplace if you really think about it, so we should really go back to living right with the land and put a stop to the divide and conquer agenda.
What message do you have for indigenous kids who look up to you and want to follow in your footsteps as a creative?
My message is go all the way and don't be shy, just dive into the creative juices. The Creator favors creators, so make some beautiful pieces and think of it as your offering to the world. At the end of this life, what you create here is an offering to the Creator.
Looking back at where you first started when you first wrote your first rhymes, what are you most proud of about having to overcome to get where you are now as an award-winning rap artist?
I'm really proud of all the steps it took to get here. On paper, it seemed impossible for me to have videos on TV and songs on the radio with a fan base that spans across the world; but I did it. I am proud of the self-belief and work ethic it took to get here, and the fact I'm not even close to being done yet is the electrifying part.