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.