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First Nations hip hop artist promotes cultural healing through music

Drezus performs at K-Days in Edmonton on Friday, July 24, 2015. Rachel CrowSpreadingWings, Global News

EDMONTON — Jeremiah Manitopyes, whose native name is Old Man Eagle, is known to most as Drezus, his hip hop moniker. The 32-year-old has been following his musical passion for over 10 years.

Now, he has been nominated for four Indigenous Music Awards.

His first introduction to hip hop was listening to Run-DMC. The lyrics blew his mind.

“I was like ‘whoa, these guys are saying crazy stuff! They don’t care what they’re saying.’ But what I started realizing was that certain people did care what they are saying.”

He started rhyming to help him express his emotions and experiences as a youth.

“Growing up I was a loner kid. I was really open to a lot of things and hip hop was one of them.”

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Drezus came from a rough background. He grew up in Saskatchewan, struggled with addiction, even spent some time in jail.

He joined Team Rezoffical in 2004 and they released the song “Lonely” in 2008. It climbed the Much Music hip hop charts.

However, Drezus’ struggles with the law didn’t come to an end. But, the last time he was behind bars he learned about bringing in positive energy. He was shown his own First Nations culture, taught how to make drums and to sing his traditional Ojibwa songs.

“When I learned more of a respect for myself, I learned more of a respect for everything else.”


After being released into the recovery program, Drezus says connecting with roots is what allowed him to see who he really was as an aboriginal person.
“Hop hip was an extension of who I was and wanted to be,” he explained. “But once I connected with the cultural aspect, that’s when [I was] like ‘OK this is me.'”
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Now, Drezus has begun working with youth through several organizations, including the YMCA in Calgary.

“They’re used to seeing the rap guys in the videos – the gangsters – they look up to that for some reason, but I kind of slide into that, that whole world.  I fill that image for them, but then when I start talking about positive things, they really listen.

The rapper wants to encourage kids to be fearless on their journey to self-discovery.

Drezus is up for four Indigenous Music Awards this year: Indigenous Entertainer of the Year, Producer of the Year, Best Hip Hop Album, and Best Music Video. The award show will be held in Winnipeg in September.

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