Drezus – Indian Summer [Review]
Winnipeg, MB – Saskatoon-born, Winnipeg-based Canadian First Nations rapper Drezus is back with a brand new album, Indian Summer. Simply put: the album is political and fearless.
It is no secret that the state of Aboriginal affairs in Canada is nowhere close to pretty. The great divide between the Canadian government and Canadian Native communities seems to expand every year; old wounds resurface despite attempts at apology and half-hearted reconciliation. In this post-Idle No More movement, the First Nations narrative has become much sought after. Rap is the music of struggle so it is no wonder that many Native artists have embraced it as the vehicle for their storytelling.
Drezus has been making music since the late 90s, initially starting out as a poet. He released an album as part of Rezofficial Music in 2004. Indian Summer is his much-anticipated solo return after a decade-long hiatus during a time in which he dealt with his own personal struggle.
He opens the album with haunting native chanting in “Solomon’s Prayer” and it sets the mood for the rest of the album, calling for people to come together with a vibe intended to charge the listener up. “The Sequel” does the exact opposite by opening with a warped colonial male voice proclaiming that “the world is dying and the Natives must be saved”. Drezus speaks of a tumultuous relationship with his father and how it is the dribbled down consequence of colonialism. He brings up the school system and accuses colonials of “trying to kill us all”. His courageous lyrics are admirable; these are painful truths that no doubt make Canadians uncomfortable. For Drezus to use his voice to speak truth about politics and risk pissing people off is the mark of artistic authenticity.
Indian Summer is not all about struggle and politics though. This is a rap album with a balance of themes. There are a few romantic tracks with a couple features from extremely talented female vocalists. “Say” with feature from an artist that goes by Inez’ and “What You Need” with Fayliesha are both memorable and a good contrast to Drezus style. Indian Summer is a real, full-on rap album and these are two incredibly radio-friendly songs.
“Cruisin’” featuring Lightningcloud is an absolute earworm. The brilliant female chorus, “You can find me in my low rider /Credit to the all-nighter/ East West South-sider/ Or the North higher / Everybody fired up” is infectious and the strong 90s clapping beat makes it all the more fun. Lyrics like “you’re acting like you never seen a native before” reappropriates the n-word to forge an alliance with the Black American struggle. Many native stereotypes get poetically invoked in this song – “turquoise, feathers, pistols”. These could be implying pride or poking fun at the non-Natives’ antiquated view about Natives. Either way the poetry is clever and Drezus’ ability to infuse political agenda into rap is amazing.
“All I Can Be” with K-Riz goes into Drezus’ relationship with hip-hop. The incorporated horns section is creative and Drezus’ strong melodies make sure each song is easily recognizable. His use of different instruments is enchanting like “In The Morning After” where the sweeping violins add a cinematic tone to a song about achieving dreams.
“Warpath” the strongest song on Indian Summer and comes accompanied by a visually rich video. The anger and struggle on this track is obvious and visceral. Drezus gets very honest about the Native experience here. “Warpath” very clearly represents his standpoint as an artist.
“Of Note” is Drezus’ attempt at keeping the album as socially conscious as possible. Profanity is sparse on the album and Drezus relies more heavily on poetry to emphasize anger and frustration. Drezus recognizes the need to reject the image of Native women as sexual objects and his shares his stories and respect on track like “Misogyny” and “Neyihaw Girl”.
“High Note” is probably as aggressive as the album gets. This is a more traditional rap song with Merkules, Nato and Sese bringing their own brands of rap to the mix. Every rapper has their own form of communicating anguish about the state of their community, and the rappers featured on this song showcase Drezus’ message in their own, very different view points. Drezus’ collaborations within the native community deserve accolades. With contributors like Hellnback, Big Slim, Young Kidd, Joey Stylez and Samson T, Indian Summer becomes a patchwork quilt of aboriginal hip-hop excellence.
Indian Summer is an important album and Drezus has done a fantastic job of representing the Canadian First Nations perspective. Despite the political content on the album it never gets too heavy. Catchy melodies, beautiful vocals and creative uses of instruments make Indian Summer an aesthetic experience. To turn on Canadian radio and listen to music like this would be a refreshing dream come true.
Written by Prachi Kamble for HipHopCanada