A Yellowknife rapper recently released new music under his own terms and he's dedicated to keeping the rest he releases true to the North, he said.
Last year, Dylan Jones — also known as Crook the Kid — released his latest single Too Lost. He said he was pressured to do it by others who helped manage his music.
But as of Friday, he said he officially bought back that song from the agent representing him at the time, along with 11 other songs that were previously released. It cost him $500 a song, he added.
Now, he said he's free to do what he wants with them, and his choice? Give them away for free to whoever asks for them, the way he originally intended.
The artist, originally from Fort Good Hope, N.W.T., has had growing success over the years as an artist. In 2019, he had a huge break when he performed at Ottawa Bluesfest, an event that attracts about 300,000 people each year. It features performances by musical giants that range from Foo Fighters to Kanye West.
After that show, Jones said he received some 400 Facebook notifications and his phone was ringing nonstop.
The song Too Lost was written in Ottawa, just before Bluesfest and just after his brother had died, Jones said.
"I was simultaneously experiencing one of the best things in my life with one of the worst," he said.
One night, he couldn't sleep and ended up writing out the song in an hour.
"Instead of going to sleep I laid on the floor and I was just thinking and thinking and I grabbed a piece of paper," he said.
"I don't know what it was about. I was confused and thinking how could this be happening … Why is it that every time there's a little good there has to be so much bad."
Jones said he wants to keep his music free rather than make money off of it nor let others profit from it. While the songs still appear on music platforms like Spotify (which is not managed by him, Jones said), he owns the right to the songs.
"Art's just going to be art," he said.
Staying in the North
Jones said it's partly why he chooses not to leave the North, as he doesn't agree with "shiny" people in the South, where he thinks too much emphasis is placed on the monetary value of art.
In the North, he said community is strong, whereas in the South, despite a higher population, he never felt more alone.
"There's a million people around me and not one person said hi to another, it's crazy," he said. "I'd rather know my neighbour."
Jones said he didn't consider the selling feature or an overarching meaning to his latest album, which he'll release in pieces.
"I'll still never leave the North. This music is still inspired by us and our way of life and that's how we're going to keep it," he said.
"Though our story is hard to hear sometimes, it's ours."
Jones said he graduated from the environmental and natural resources technology program at Aurora College in Fort Smith — a feat he didn't realize he was capable of.
He then spent the summer fire fighting and now he has a position as a lands co-ordinator for the Smith's Landing First Nation.
"That was an incredible honour," he said. "I feel like a lucky person."