Watch An Important Short Film About First Nations Rapper Drezus

The Cree and Nishnawbe MC tells his story on his own terms.

For 16 years, Calgary, Alberta-based musician Jeremiah Manitopyes has been rapping about the struggles of First Nations peoples with N.W.A.-inspired flows and a commanding, baritone voice. In 2009, his group Rezofficial was nominated for a Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent to the Grammys). But despite his success, Manitopyes struggled with addiction, depression, and even suicide attempts. It wasn’t until 2012 that he traded in drugs, violence, and stints in jail for a greater calling: fighting the systematic oppression of Indigenous lives through hip-hop. Now he has a solo project, Drezus, that's on a mission to heal.

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“A lot of Native people, we don’t see too many other Native people succeeding," he explains in the mini-doc above. "We like to stay in the dark, and maybe that’s because we were pushed in the dark for how many centuries. Maybe we’re comfortable there now. I’m not cool with that, though. I’m trying to bring us into the light.”

The film is the latest from CNN's new video network Great Big Story, and it zooms in on the realities that Natives face today, and how individuals like Manitopyes refuse to go down without a fight. The short doc touches upon his Cree and Nishnawbe heritage, his creative journey, and his vision for the future. Manitopyes strives to break the barriers imparted by stereotypes, perpetrated by both non-Indigenous peoples and Indigenous youths grappling with their identities. Songs like “Warpath” from his album Indian Summer address issues like gang violence and masculinity, opting for a more constructive way to be a warrior.

Watch above and check out Indian Summer below.

Watch An Important Short Film About First Nations Rapper Drezus