By Courtney Faulkner
LETHBRIDGE – “Our music is very heavily Blackfoot. We talk a lot about being native. We wear it proudly,” says Carl ‘Tukk’ Brave Rock, one of the initial founders of Blood Rez Crew, which first came together in 2002.
Joined by Jessie Blackwater a couple years later, the duo are now the sole remaining members of the crew, and are poised to released a full-length studio album dubbed Four Stories on November 14, produced by Aboriginal People’s Choice Award winner Sean Beaver.
Modern day First Nations story tellers from the Kainai Nation, the pair combines their love of hip-hop with a reverence for their traditional Blackfoot culture, sharing stories about their relationship with their community and the reserve, tackling difficult topics such as poverty, violence, and alcohol abuse, that stem from the trauma of Canada’s colonial history.
Amid the struggle, there is strength.
“When we go back in history, our people, they were very put under a thumb,” says Blackwater.
“Once the treaties were signed and they were put on reserves, our freedoms and everything were kind of taken away from us. And we were always scared, we were always scared of the white people, we were scared of the police, we were scared of the residential schools, the priests, all these people. Our grandparents, they lived in fear. And today, we are the first generation that is coming out of colonization, and we’re no longer scared.”
“And so now, our people, the ones that are moving ahead, and not stuck under that depression from the residential era, that aspect, we’re kind of moving forward from that, and we’re just trying. That’s what this album is like, [Brave Rock] said he wanted it to represent that resiliency.”
“So in there we have songs about, just trying to get by, and being able to do what we want to do now,” continues Blackwater.
“We have a song where we talk about suicide, and that was one of the first songs that we recorded, and was probably the hardest song for us to record, because Carl lost his sister, who was my best friend, [she] committed suicide 11 years ago. We’ve had to deal with a lot of these issues. This is our outlet, to let all of these things out. Other than that, there’s really fun songs on there, songs about how we love hip-hop, it’s different, where it sounds real gangster kind of, and then there’s the fun hip-hop kind of thing. It’s really bloomed.”
In the wake of losing valuable founding member Jared Panther Bone months into working on the album due to creative differences, the remaining members have welcomed members of their community to collaborate.
“It’s a collective. The beautiful thing about it is putting all these different minds and personalities together,” says Brave Rock. “We went into this process not knowing what it’s going to be when we’re done. Which is the way I personally enjoy working. When I’m about to do something I just want to trust that whatever comes out of my brain is going to be something beautiful in the end.”
The album will feature KillaCam of Savage Music Group, Heidi Mason, who is new to the game at 17-years-old, alongside veteran rapper Amber Creighton, HellnbacK, Chuck Bones, a local rapper from Standoff, and Casey Weasel Head.
“Everybody that we’ve got on the album, they’re really excited about it. And it’s cool, because a lot of them have never had this experience before, you know to do recordings, or to get on stage and rap in front of people, just to perform,” says Blackwater.
“It’s opening them up to other possibilities.”
The pair, who have a found a connection to their communities through their music, are both in their 30’s and looking to support the next generation in their creative expression, and their healing.
“In the communities, in Standoff, and in Moses Lake, these communities there’s a lot of kids that struggle with the ghettoization in that area,” says Blackwater.
“I find when they hear our music, they’re connected to that, cause a lot of the things that we talk about, they see it, they know what we’re talking about, and they know who we are too.”
He concludes, “We see kids that want to do music, and I think that’s something that we want to start pushing, these kids to do that. To do music, anything even like poetry, acting, theatre.”
Blood Rez Crew release their album Four Stories on November 14, and plan to have a release party in their community on the Kainai Nation. Learn more about them at https://www.facebook.com/bloodrezcrew/.Blackfoot, Blood Rez Crew, Four Stories, hip hop, Kainai Nation