Iqaluit, Nunavut: It’s Nunavut Music Week 2.0, and rapper FxckMr is taking advantage of meeting a small group of people from the Canadian music industry, mostly from Toronto, there to learn as much about the remote, stark, beautiful capital city and Arctic community of 7,700 people and the struggles and logistics facing musicians there, as they are from us.
FxckMr – real name MisterLee Cloutier-Ellsworth – performs numerous times, at Inuksuk High School for a CBC q radio special; the Royal Canadian Legion (the only true live music venue); an unprecedented outdoor concert on bone-chilling Frobisher Bay; and at the NuBrew open mic.
He also performs at the Franco-Centre in the daytime, where the informal informational sessions take place, with everyone seated in a circle, talking about what they do and taking questions from the local musicians – designed to provide mentorship for those interested. FxckMr is interested.
“I’ve always been good at articulating my thoughts and new ideas.”
By the end of the three-day trip, he’s won the visitors over, blowing us away with his rhymes, and endearing us with his friendly personality. He’s even impressed a mainstream daily like The Toronto Star enough to cover him. But underneath his smile, FxckMr uses hip-hop to expose the realities of life in the North, one often filled with addiction, depression, and suicide, familiar to so many youth from the territory.
His eight-song debut album, 1997, which includes previously released cuts “Higher,” “PMFWAFT” and “Hunnid Grand,” drops Sept. 20, 2019, on Aakuluk Music, the label started by Iqaluit breakout band The Jerry Cans, via Six Shooter. FxckMr has just turned 22, but it’s taken him five years to land this unique opportunity, releasing a hip-hop album on a national scale with the industry behind him.
“I’ve always been good at articulating my thoughts and new ideas,” he says, standing outside the Franco-Centre. “I started writing poetry when I was about 15. I might’ve done some more when I was younger, but 15 was when I was like, ‘Okay, I like this.’”
There was no hip-hop scene in Iqaluit, he says. Most of the music is traditional, passed down from the elders to ensure it doesn’t die with the next generation. “Rock bands, or folk singers playing acoustic Inuktitut music, is mostly what people are interested in,” says FxckMr.
“I wasn’t big into hip-hop. There was a Childish Gambino, I was into him when I was 15, and a bit of Eminem, but I wasn’t hip-hop-oriented. I was into electronic and dubstep music in those days, and then 17 was when it started switching.”
At 16, FxckMr lived in Montréal – where his mother’s side of the family is from, and where he now resides – and was introduced to some rap from friends, before moving back to Iqaluit a year later, where he was exposed to local hip-hop artists, like Lekan Thomas, Hyper-T, and Brian Tagalik.
“We started freestyling,” he says, “and there was a high school talent show that was going to be happening, and it happened to be while we were doing a poetry unit in English class, so I was like, ‘We’re doing this.’” He got a good response and kept on writing – dozens, then 100, and now approaching 200 songs.
“I haven’t gotten into producing yet,” says FxckMr. “I’ve been trying to perfect the lyrics first. I will become proficient in the producing, and even instruments. I know I’m going to catch on to the drums, the keyboard, trying to do the guitar. I don’t think it’s quite my thing, but I’m trying to go outside the lyrics a little bit.”
But as important as preserving the Inuk language is, FxckMr always rhymes in English. “I know I could sit down and write an Inuktitut song, but I don’t see it as what’s going to help my career right now,” he says.