Artist Spotlight :: Drezus ::


Born : Jeremiah Manitopyes

Affiliation: Plains Cree

Nearly committing suicide twice, Jeremiah Manitopyes (a.k.a. Drezus) has struggled through a dangerous lifestyle in his pursuit of rap stardom. Drezus was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a self-described “hood in the middle of nowhere.” Drezus’ father was seldom around, employed as a “red circuit” country singer playing shows on reservations and in Native communities.
After two men died in a violent incident involving his aunt’s boyfriend, Drezus and his mother moved to the predominately white city of Calgary. Drezus soon formed a gang with other Native kids and sought to imitate the gangster lifestyle of his favorite artists Public Enemy, N.W.A. and Ice Cube. At age 17, in between heavy drug use, drinking and drug dealing, Drezus began to write his first rhymes. His rap skills were undeniably good, earning him the nickname “Biggie” in tribute to Biggie Smalls. Yet, Drezus lived too recklessly. On one occasion Drezus was found passed out on the side of the road after getting too messed up on coke and whiskey to follow through on his suicide.
At that point Drezus’ cancer-afflicted grandmother give him her plane ticket to Oregon to meet an elder Plains Cree healer. In the emergency ‘vision quest’ Drezus subsided in a cave with no food and just a sleeping bag in hopes for a sign. The healer sensed inside Drezus the spirit of Piapot: a legendary Cree chief that fought invading settlers in the 1800s, but began life as a misguided horse thief. “I didn’t know what the hell she was talking about,” Drezus states, returning from the quest unchanged.
With such impressive rap skills, such as a 20-minute freestyle, Drezus was recognized by the moderately successful Native hip hop group War Party. Drezus and other War Party members formed Rezofficial and found a great opportunity to perform as part of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic opening ceremony. Unfortunately Drezus had to watch the events from a jail cell in Winnipeg for his second distribution charge. Entering drug rehab to lessen jail time, Drezus took a cultural course in which an elder taught him Indigenous practices: Native songs, harvesting techniques and even traditional drum-making.
As soon as Drezus was free he found himself right back in his old ways. He robbed a crew of guys in Winnipeg, who soon caught up to him and beat him senseless. In what Drezus calls a “real ‘man-up’ moment” he chose not to risk his life in retaliation, to give up his life of crime and to return to Calgary to be a better father. Immediately hitting the library, Drezus made an agreement with his son to learn everything about Chief Piapot and their Native ancestors. Suddenly, the two were protesting Canada’s Bill C-45, an environmental bill concerning water resource maintenance, that was in clear treaty violation. “I started feeling a connection with the people,” Drezus says, “and I was like ‘Yo, this is who I was supposed to be.” Drezus then wrote his song Red Winter, dedicated to the grassroots Idle No More Movement— a movement that “calls on all people to join a peaceful revolution, to honor Indigenous sovereignty and to protect the land and water.”

With a renewed sense of identity, Drezus has continued to focus his music on uniting and empowering the Native community… channeling his inner Chief Piapot. Drezus is always willing to reach out to misguided youths, for example often speaking to Natives at the Calgary Youth Offender Center. But Drezus hasn’t lost his toughness. His newest release Warpath is an aggressive call-to-arms for Native people: “We are overlooked,” Drezus explains, “We are the people of this land and we’re treated as if we’re nothing.” In the Warpath music video, Drezus sports a white hand-print of war paint over his mouth as a symbol for breaking the silence. “Those [colonizing] institutions are trying to silence me,” Drezus defiantly states, “But they can’t and I’m speaking through it.” 

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