Standing Rock music video featuring First Nation hip-hop artist up for MTV award

Canadian artist Drezus is the first First Nation hip-hop artist up for a MTV Video Music Award.

Drezus up for MTV award from collaboration with Black Eyed Peas' Taboo

Calgary based hip-hop artist Drezus, nominated for MTV VMA with Black Eyed Peas member, Taboo. (Nadya Kwandibens)

Plains Cree-Saulteaux hip-hop artist Jeremiah Manitopyes — aka Drezus — just found out he is headed to the MTV video awards in Los Angeles, thanks to a song he helped create about Standing Rock and the protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). 

"All of a sudden, I got the call," said Manitopyes. "I'm like, how? We aren't even on a label! We managed to sneak in the back door."

The Calgary-based rapper is one of seven Native American artists who came together to form the Mag7 group, spearheaded by "Taboo" of the Black Eyed Peas in 2017. They weren't looking for awards.

They put the song Stand Up/Stand N Rock together to raise awareness about the fight of the Sioux Tribe against the Dakota Acccess Pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian reservation. The song is nominated in the new category "Best Fight Against the System."

The events at Standing Rock garnered worldwide attention. Protests against the pipeline began in early 2016 and attracted support from thousands of people from all walks of life. Many of the protesters called the movement "No DAPL."

Manitopyes had visited Standing Rock in October 2016 and said it was an experience that changed his life.

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"Iit really hit me. It stoked a fire in me. It was one of the most beautiful, powerful experiences of my life. I didn't go there as an artist, I went as myself, helped and became a member of the community," said Manitopyes.

Working with Taboo, Black Eyed Peas

Taboo, a hip-hop artist with one of the world's best-selling groups of all time, The Black Eyed Peas, is member of the Shoshone Tribe. He first contacted Manitopyes in the fall of 2016 via a direct message on Instagram to ask him to collaborate.

"I was like what? Let me see if this is the real Taboo," said Manitopyes.

"Everything checked out. He said he was following me for a couple of years, and a fan of my work. He was inspired by the Standing Rock movement and wanted to put some native artists together to make a music video." 

Taboo reached out to Drezus to collaborate on some music after being inspired by the activism in Standing Rock, ND. (Submitted)

After chatting with Taboo, Manitopyes put pen to paper and wrote the following lyrics for his part in the song:

Oh yeah we plan on it, the earth we camp on it,

In a sweat lodge singing our songs with grandfathers,

Heat rocks all in the spot, we splash on 'em,

With a beat box from my boy, we jam on it,

Said a prayer for the Black Snake Killas,

Standing on the front lines they are the realest,

Stand for your people, for your family,

Stand with Standing Rock, Stand for humanity

Speaking to CBC News from Las Vegas on his way to Los Angeles, Manitopyes said he hopes attending the video awards will raise further awareness about bigger causes experienced by Indigenous Peoples around the world.

He said Sunday's award show will be "ground breaking and monumental" whether they win or not.

"We have so much talent in our communities and [the youth] need to see people like us doing things like this. I am happy for our people and for the No DAPL movement."

He's also grateful for his newfound friendship with Taboo, saying he is "good for the spirit."

"We're like brothers now. He's the most humble, genuine person I've met."

The Mag7 artists include Marcus "EmceeOne" Guinn, Supaman, Doc Battiest, PJ Vegas, Natalia "MyVerse" and Manitopyes; the only Indigenous Canadian in the group.

Manitopyes is no stranger to awards, he won four at the 2015 Indigenous Music Awards and is preparing for the release of his new album Public Enemy this fall.


Brandi Morin, Métis, born and raised in Alberta, possesses a passion for telling Indigenous stories. Based outside Edmonton, Morin has lent her talents to several news organizations, including Indian Country Today Media Network and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network National News.