Now or Never

Making beats in the bedroom: Young Iqaluit rapper creates meaningful music at home

Jaydin Nungaq says making music in his bedroom reminds him he has "something to live for."

Inuk teenager Jaydin Nungaq released a song to draw attention to youth suicide in Nunavut

Jaydin Nungaq, also known as Young Keen, in his Iqaluit bedroom. (Submitted by Jaydin Nungaq)

If you're looking for Jaydin Nungaq, check his bedroom.

The Iqaluit teenager spends hours each day making music from the corner of his tiny room — and that's the way he likes it. 

"I've been living, sleeping, eating and creating in this room for so many years of my life now," said Nungaq. "It's become my little home."

Nungaq releases music under the moniker Young Keen. He's learned keyboard and guitar by watching YouTube tutorials, downloads beats from the internet, and hopes to one day add a saxophone to his instrument collection.

Searching for purpose

But prior to finding his passion, Nungaq was lost. At 15, the self-described introvert said he struggled to find hope for his future.

"[I had] issues with my family and my own personal life," said Nungaq. "And people were asking: what are you going to do after school? Are you going to go to college or university? All of these things were flying around my head and making me overwhelmed and worried." 

Things began to change when he attended a hip-hop workshop at his high school.

When he picked up a microphone for the first time and tried his hand at rapping, he had found a new purpose.

"When I was exposed to music and the joy I got out of it — from there on I knew that it was what I wanted to do," he recalled. "It reminds me that I have something to live for. It's a feeling of purpose."

Jaydin Nungaq on his 2021 graduation day. Nungaq was one of the valedictorians of his class. (Submitted by Jaydin Nungaq / Instagram)

Drawing attention to the suicide crisis

For Nungaq, who describes himself as "a very closed-off person," music provides a way to comfortably express himself and share the highs and lows of his life.

Once he entered high school, he became aware of the mental health crisis facing many teenagers in Nunavut.

In May, he and a classmate authored an open letter that asked government leaders to pay attention to Nunavut's suicide crisis. In his Grade 12 year alone, Nungaq lost two of his classmates to suicide.

He wrote the song Thoughts That Will Move You and released it on SoundCloud at the same time as the letter, hoping that it would spur action and draw attention to the issue. 

Loneliness and freedom

Although Nungaq has been a prolific creator, the hours spent in his bedroom also come with a certain degree of loneliness. 

"If I'm in my room or alone too much, I'll get overwhelmed with my thoughts," he said.

When that happens, he'll do one of two things: go for a walk, or put on his own music. Hearing himself sing, and imagining the future that is in store for Young Keen, helps replace his loneliness with hope.

"Music always gives me a sense of freedom. I [always] have myself to talk to and see in the mirror."

Where to get help:

Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (Phone) | 45645 (Text, 4 p.m. to midnight ET only)

In Quebec (French): Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)

You can also call the First Nations and Inuit Wellness Watch 24/7 at 1-855-242-3310 or Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 to speak to a counsellor.

Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis centre

This segment originally aired in Sept., 2021.