First Nations–Métis singer-songwriter, producer, and rapper Joey Stylez is not only a musician. He's also an activist, fashion designer, and visual artist.
His newest album, 3 Eye Hip, is the soundtrack for a film by Dark Shawn. Stylez recently shared his thoughts on this project with the Georgia Straight.
GS: Tell our readers about your current album 3 Eye Hip.
JS: In all my years of creating music my lifestyle has been very transparent in my most recent content. At this point in my life I have matured into pursuing a conscious life of balance. Many people involved in the New Age movement tend to refer to it as having your third eye open. So it is like being hip to the world from a third-eye point of view.
GS: What inspired you to include a documentary?
JS: Many people haven’t fully grasped my growth as a human, as an artist, and I find it most effective to show them what I want them to know when it comes to my movement and brand. So this was a way of spoon-feeding my audience the new me.
GS: What memory stands out the most during the making of 3 Eye Hip?
JS: When I was in Saskatchewan during the Junos I got to spend some time with my loved ones, which was great. The day I recorded “It’s the Life” I spent the afternoon with my late cousin Will and my bro Jason Chakita who is on that song with me. Will had served a lot of time incarcerated in his life so he had a bunch of face tattoos, neck tattoos, and hand tattoos, and as we walked around Midtown Plaza in Sask., the police were called due to the uneasiness our presence created.
This Is something we have grew up feeling our whole lives back home. I dropped off Will, told him I loved him and that this time he needs to stay out of jail. He said he’ll "try”.
That night, me and Jason went to a boxing club that our lifestyle group Stressed Street owns and set up my portable studio and that song just happened so beautifully. There was some young brothers watching in amazement with how natural the music-making process is. It really speaks to our lives—that song—some of us have had to hustle and live tough lives to our food on the table and keep the lights on.
That was the last time I seen Will. He gave me a chain and ring and I keep that in medicine bag to keep his Warrior spirit with me.
JS: We all have an inner voice connected to our spirit. When you let the Soul speak instead of the mind, you will always stay true to yourself. If you let your Spirit guide you it is very hard to go wrong.
GS: What did you learn from your family that you’re able to apply to your music?
JS: A goal as a musical creative is to be able to make music that is fun for my younglings, can still inspire something in my elders, and have a 20-something-year-old dancing and cutting loose. So the relationships with my family is what enables me to understand what makes them tick and I turn around and put that into my music.
GS: What role does art (movies, music, dance etc) play in healing communities?
JS: Louis Riel spoke some serious wisdom when he said “My people will sleep for one hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists who give them their spirit back.” And that’s how I feel about it 100 percent. If you can spark a fire within someone, you’ll be the fuel to navigate them through their battles—and music, art, and movies touches that part of your soul. So we in a sense are part of that battle to heal the people at a larger level.
GS: Name three Indigenous artists who we should be watching right now.
JS: Carsen Gray, not only because she is my wife, but she has one of the most beautiful voices period!
Lancelot Knight—when I first started dabbling outside the hip-hop realm it was Lance that was there showing me what it was like to play with a band. His new music coming out is gonna have people freaking when they hear it.
Tia Wood. She is a young sister and she is doing a great job of mixing pop music and traditional music in one. Her voice is very unique so she is going to have a long career ahead of her.
GS: How have the events of 2020 affected your art and music?
JS: I added guitar to my arsenal as I always like to be building. In past years I been too busy touring and on the road handling business to take the time to learn a new instrument. So it has added a whole new element to my music. And like everyone else the number of shows has gone all the way done and the virtual performances has gone all the way up.
GS: Who is your biggest fan?
JS: My Momma I would say, and after that my children. My pops is more of a fan of my harder music. He doesn’t like the stuff that’s too soft.
GS: Do you have plans for shows once COVID restrictions have eased?
JS: Most definitely, Suzette Amaya and I have been very active for many years and this past few years have been very busy for us. Our team, Waniskawin, has been all over North America spreading wellness [and] helping people have a good time and forget about their worries and focus on reaching goals.
GS: Who did your ink? Tell me the story about one of your tattoos.
JS: I have some ink I am extremely proud of. The ones that jump out and come to mind when thinking of my tattoo lifestyle are done by my late homeboy the legendary Booboo Negrete. I spent a lot of time in his shop when I was living in Los Angeles, and it was crazy, all the A-list celebrities I seen walk through the door. His dad, Freddy Negrete, is seen as a one of the founders of the soft grey scale Chicano style, so I was excited to get inked up from him cuz me and booboo would always talk about how similar our people are, and how both of us came from that Indigenous tribal background. He did a raven on my forearm and on my right shoulder he banged out a joker from an old set of playing cards. Jokers and clowns are sacred in their culture, particularly in LA street culture, and the same goes for the people of the Great Plains. Ee have such an admiration for tricksters and sacred clowns.