Quebec Cree hip-hop duo make video about youth struggles

The group The NorthStars hope its video will trigger some important conversations about mental health.

'We want to show youth they are not alone,' say The NorthStars

The video 'Monsters,' which deals with substance abuse, was recently released by Quebec Cree hip-hop artists The NorthStars. The group hopes it will spark important conversations about mental health. (The NorthStars/N'we Jinan Records)

Northern Quebec rap duo The NorthStars has released a new song and video with a powerful message about what some Indigenous young people face.

The group is hoping Monsters, a video about the ravages of substance abuse, will inspire some difficult but necessary conversations and offer an outlet for Indigenous youth struggling with mental health issues like depression and suicidal thoughts. 

"The song is about the things [youth] face — their monsters and inner demons," said Gary Jolly in Cree. Jolly is one of the founding members of The NorthStars.

"[It's] about the struggles that weigh them down and trying to overcome them."  

A behind the scenes of the shoot for the video 'Monsters,' by the Quebec Cree rap group The NorthStars. (The NorthStars/N'we Jinan)

Jolly and the other member of the group, Elton J. Salt, said they wanted to confront these tough subjects head on.

"We wanted to show youth that we hear their plea to be heard," said Salt in Cree. The NorthStars are based in the Cree community of Nemaska, 700 kilometres north of Montreal. 

"We wanted to tell the story about what we see living in a Cree community."

Almost eight years ago, Jolly quit drinking to dedicate himself to making and teaching music, and to focus on his family. Salt said the group wanted to show people that they can overcome their personal issues and be good role models to their children. 

"We wanted to show [youth] they are not alone. We have our own issues too and we wanted to put into words where these feelings come from," said Salt.

Mentoring youth

Both Salt and Jolly are hoping the video connects with Indigenous youth and inspires them to tell the people close to them what they're going through. They also hope their loved ones take the time to really listen. 

"When we first started in music, a lot of the people told us that the words we use, and the messages, resonate with them," said Salt. 

The song is about the things [youth] face — their monsters and inner demons.- Gary Jolly, founding member of NorthStars

A big priority for the both Salt and Jolly is to help Indigenous youth face their fears, overcome their shyness, and find their voice. 

"We have a chance to invite youth to come and record music in a studio, and not just youth who want to record or write a song, but anything that is music related," said Jolly. He said they really want to mentor Cree youth — it's something he and Salt didn't have when they started.

Monsters is the debut single off The NorthStars' second album, Nightmares, which will be released in March. The project was produced in collaboration with N'we Jinan Records. The video is available on YouTube and the song is on Apple Music and Spotify. 

Since 2011, The NorthStars have been recording music and holding music workshops in Cree communities, as well as in Ontario and British Columbia. (The NorthStars/N'we Jinan Records)

With files from Susan Bell