Inuk rapper FXCKMR tackles Nunavut suicide crisis through music
Warning: This article contains discussion of suicide
When Indigenous rapper FXCKMR was growing up in Iqaluit, he was surrounded by an epidemic of suicide.
"Suicide has just been around since I can remember," he says, adding that he's named after his aunt Missy, who died by suicide. "Throughout my life, especially when I turned 15, it just seemed like it was a really prominent thing. Every year, there were multiple friends or people that we grew up with, people who are on your hockey team, people that you went to school with, people just, you know, committing suicide, and it hasn't stopped and it still isn't stopping."
FXCKMR, born MisterLee Cloutier-Ellsworth, is one of the young rappers leading the small but mighty hip-hop scene in Iqaluit. He raps about his experience growing up in Iqaluit and having to face things head-on, among them a suicide epidemic. He tells q host Tom Power that he looks to his music to find strength and to speak about the things he feels are important.
"It's my stories and it's things I've been through," he says. "I've been suicidal, I've been depressed, I've been stressed, anxious, I've been everything. So it's mostly about me speaking freely about what I'm going through to connect to other people."
It's a crisis that has had a large effect on the community. In 2017, a five-year strategy called Inuusivut Anninaqtuq — roughly translated as "our lives are valuable and should be protected" — was launched to free up $16 million for Nunavut communities to access wellness programs. Suicide prevention strategies in place have brought numbers down, hitting a 10-year low in 2018 according to statistics obtained by CBC, but they're still too high for the small community of 38,000.
"I think the isolation up here just drives people nuts, they just really think that there's not much or not enough to this world," says FXCKMR. "It just comes up in my music all the time. I don't even try to talk about it or try to write about it. It's just something I think I need to speak about to share with the world."
As his spotlight has grown, FXCKMR says young aspiring rappers from the community have also started to reach out, a gesture that is not lost on him.
"My life changed when I started dedicating myself to music and sharing my stories, and how people connect with it and how people look up to it, I don't even know how to describe it. It's intense, it's sometimes heartbreaking … but it's really inspiring just see how far I've come in these first few years."
For now, FXCKMR continues to work on his debut album, one that he says will tell his story, as well as that of his community. "I want to share the Nunavut story with the world and I want to bring the world to Nunavut," he says. "I want people to come here and explore and see what we see, see what it's like to live up here."
You can listen to FXCKMR's full interview with Tom Power, above, including the performance from his upcoming debut album.
If you're Indigenous and experiencing emotional distress, call the First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310.
For help in Inuktitut, you can call the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line at 1-867-979-3333 or, toll-free from Nunavik or Nunavut, at 1-800-265-3333.
Anyone in a crisis can call 1-833-456-4566, available 24/7, or visit Crisis Services Canada for text or chat options.
— Produced by Mitch Pollock
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