‘If you have a dream, keep chasing it’: Sanikiluaq rapper releases debut album
Ehski’s ‘Final Legacy’ is about growing up in Nunavut and his struggles in life
For Nunavut rapper Ehski, music is a way to work through life’s darkest struggles.
“I can be part of myself” with music, said the 30-year-old artist from Sanikiluaq.
Ehski, whose real name is Oqaituk Adam Emikotailak, released his debut album Final Legacy on Aug. 25.
The 11-track album is a personal collection of songs about Ehski’s life growing up in Nunavut, his struggles with depression and his hopes for the future.
He said he wanted to create songs that would resonate with others who are experiencing similar challenges.
“I’ve faced the bottom of depression,” he said. “I want them to know that they’re not alone.”
Ehski started writing his own songs when he was 13 years old, he said, drawing inspiration from hip-hop artists like Eminem and Insane Clown Posse, and later in life from rappers like Lucidious.
After battling hard times as a teenager, Ehski spent time in Isumaqsunngittukkuvik Youth Centre, the facility for young offenders in Iqaluit.
It was there that he began writing poems and lyrics as a way to be creative, and he learned to express himself through music.
Ehski eventually made his way to the Ajungi Mentorship Program, a virtual music industry training program run by Iqaluit record label Hitmakerz that helps young artists from Nunavut produce and record music.
After contributing an original song, Inuurama (I Am a Person), to a 2019 Ajungi compilation album with other Nunavut artists, Ehski began work in 2021 on a full-length album with help from mentoring sessions about performance skills, production and marketing.
The result is an album that blends hard-hitting beats and unflinching lyrics about pain, mental health and difficult relationships with delicate piano refrains and lyrics about believing in yourself and supporting your community.
Final Legacy is also a journey through Ehski’s culture, with lyrics sung in both English and his first language, Inuktitut.
It’s important to keep the language alive by speaking it, he said, to help make his music accessible to Inuktitut-speaking audiences.
When he’s writing a song, Ehski experiments with rhyming schemes to figure out if he wants to express himself in Inuktitut or in English.
“It takes effort to practise the rhymes,” he said.
The album also features collaborations with Danish-Canadian artist Thor Simonsen and Iqaluit’s own Shauna Seeteenak, who lends her voice to the album’s title track and Ehski’s favourite song on the album.
“It’s my final legacy, letting go of my past, seeking my serenity,” he raps on the song, an ode to finding happiness “through yourself” and becoming who you want to be, he explained.
It also includes a loving shout-out to his late cousin, Kelly Fraser, the Juno Award-winning singer.
Now that the album is complete, Ehski said he hopes to book gigs and perform songs from it live on stage.
For other young Nunavummiut who want to pursue music, Ehski encourages them to express themselves and use music as a positive outlet.
“If you have a dream, keep chasing it,” he said.
“Keep practising. Every mistake is a chance to learn.”