Want a career in the arts? Just do it, Iqaluit rapper tells youth

“Some people’s hearts are in the arts. That’s where my heart is.”

Award-winning Iqaluit rapper Thomas Matthew Lambe, also known as Triple 6 God, performs at Iqaluit’s Storehouse on Friday, July 19. (Photo by Emma Tranter)

By Emma Tranter

When his class was assigned to write a poem in his Iqaluit high school, Thomas Matthew Lambe and his friend finished theirs in five minutes.

“We were like, ‘this is pretty good,’” Lambe says.

The two boys then used that poem to write a rap song that they performed at a school talent show.

Lambe, who was born in Yellowknife and lived in Grise Fiord before moving to Iqaluit, says that performance was when he realized he wanted to write and perform music.

At 22, the Iqaluit rapper has already won a Canadian Screen Award for his song Trials. The track received national praise after it was featured in the soundtrack of the Nunavut film The Grizzlies.

“To get some extra recognition from this award … it’s a big feeling,” he said.

And now, he is recognized everywhere he goes in the North.

“It’s cool. I walk around and people are like ‘hey that’s the guy from Grizzlies, the guy who won the award,’” he added.

The friend he wrote that poem with in high school is Lee Cloutier-Ellsworth, now known as the popular Iqaluit rapper FXCKMR.

“He’s my best friend,” Lambe said.

Lambe now performs and makes music under the name Triple 6 God, a name he says comes from the “duality of good and evil.”

“Like how good and evil live beside each other and conflict with one another.”

Born to an Inuk mother and a white father, Lambe says he struggled with his identity from a young age.

“Trying to fit in with the Inuk kids was really hard for me. I was too Inuk for the white and too white for Inuk, essentially. I still had a really good childhood.”

His music reflects on his experiences growing up in Nunavut, from playing in the streets under the midnight sun as a child to the unshakable pain of a friend’s suicide.

“That’s mostly what inspires me to write. The reality of living here,” he says.

His song Northside Suicide talks about Lambe’s experience of losing that friend. He says writing it helped him to start healing.

“Mostly, I just want to be myself and express myself in a healthy way. It really helps me with that. My main focus is energy in my music. I want people to feel what I’m feeling,” he said.

When working on a song, Lambe goes to YouTube and searches for new beats to fit with his lyrics. Occasionally, he uses a studio space in the south to record his tracks, but he is usually able to find a friend with a computer and a good microphone in Iqaluit.

“For the most part, I’m just recording in my friend’s closet,” he laughs.

Much of Lambe’s music can be found on SoundCloud, but he has three songs available on the popular music-streaming app Spotify, which he says has brought his music to an international audience.

“I have more fans from the U.S. than I do from Canada now, which is weird. But before that, it was just community-based. All my fans were only from Nunavut. But now, like the number one city that listens to me is Helsinki,” he says.

Lambe is now pursuing music full time. Although hesitant at first, Lambe says his family has been very supportive since seeing him perform for the first time at the Alianait Arts Festival’s Canada Day concert in 2016.

“It was my first time performing for my dad and I was nervous. He was like critical or not receptive to it before. And then he saw me perform and he was like, ‘you did it kid, I’m really proud of you,’” Lambe says.

“That was a moment where I just felt accepted.”

And to his fellow Nunavummiut who might find musical inspiration in a poetry assignment like he did, or who might be considering a career in the arts, Lambe says to “just do it.”

“I just want people to be themselves and pursue their dreams. And I’m just trying to show youth that there’s another way out … another way out of their issues.”

“Some people’s hearts are in the arts. That’s where my heart is.”

Lambe will open for FXCKMR’s album release show on Friday, July 19, at the Storehouse in Iqaluit.

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(18) Comments:

  1. Posted by Oops on

    (His friend’s name is Mister Lee, not Lee lol.)
    Keep it up kids! Your music is helping people and inspiring future generations of artists.

  2. Posted by Jaco Lipasie on

    Gangster rapper Inuk. What a role model. What next?

  3. Posted by Goof on

    Rap doesn’t all suck, but a lot of rap sucks… “Triple God 6” lol…

  4. Posted by David on

    …Rap has developed as a form of resistance to the subjugation of working-class African-Americans in urban centers. Though it may be seen primarily as a form of entertainment, rap has the powerful potential to address social, economic, and political issues and act as a unifying voice for its audience.8

    Additionally, rap’s potential for political advocacy stems from the function of its predecessors, African-American rhyming games, as forms of resistance to systems of subjugation and slavery. Rhyming games encoded race relations between African-American slaves and their white masters in a way that allowed them to pass the scrutiny of suspicious overseers. Additionally, rhyming games allowed slaves to use their creative intellect to provide inspiration and entertainment. For example, by characterizing the slave as a rabbit and the master as a fox, “Bre’r Rabbit tales” disguised stories of slaves outwitting their masters and escaping plantations behind the facade of a comical adventure…You see, the slaves were smart and they talked in metaphors. They would be killed if the slave masters heard them speaking in unfamiliar tongues.

    I’m lost. Can someone explain how when an Inuk sings rap, it should be celebrated. But when a Metis throat sings, it’s cause for protest? I see no logic in this at all.


    • Posted by iThink on

      I agree, this is clearly a case that the small cabal of local activists who center their attention on the issue of appropriation must concede is an egregious sin against the doctrines of political correctness. I look forward to hearing them voice up on this.

    • Posted by Kaitlyn on

      I’ll indicate that it’s a really intricate and fascinating history about where rap originated from. To learn that the rap and rhymes were created out of such a terrible history is awe-spiring that a positive product of that negative era came to be. If we are speaking of the Métis artist style of throat singing , and why people were offended , I think we could observe that it wasn’t that she was throat-singing that offended people ( because other cultures have had their own forms of throat singing, like Mongolian throat singing ) but more so the style she was adapting was because she throat-sang with little knowledge of the cultural significance and importance to the Inuit Women. Lack of acknowledgment to where the style ( Kattajaq) originates from is ignorant and is understandable why Inuit were offended. The Inuit have been ostracized and shamed for the practice of their Kattajaq and now are only taking the opportunity to reclaim it . I would say it is less offensive if a marginalized Inuk/ White rapper connects to rap and uses the style because he’s using it as a tool to uplift his people from the product of their colonization, because African-Americans have claimed rap as their own, already . But why limit and restrict people when music connects everyone? Why not take the opportunity to understand where he is coming from before you label it as cultural appropriation? That’s my question.

      • Posted by Fake Plastic Tree on

        To Kaitlyn – I doubt those pointing out the appropriation issue here are doing it as cultural purists, but are noting the inconsistent standard applied when deciding what does and what does not count as appropriation. You seem to do this when you suggest there is a moral difference between how Connie LeGrande (a Cree woman, not Metis) and Nunavut’s hip hop artists use these styles, which is a function of their motives. But this point is riddled with assumptions that, if we are serious about this issue, need to be qualified. What did motivate Connie, and was she practicing Kattajaq? Does Tanya Tagaq practice Kattajaq? Tanya has clearly created a unique style, so was the real issue here the protection of her own brand? I believe Tanya weaponized culture as a means to achieving this because that was a plausible and effective connection to make. The idea that because Inuit were once prohibited from throat singing that they now need time to reclaim it, and that sharing / borrowing, in the interim, should be a decision left to a cultural elite is a fascinating one that demonstrates a certain motive as well; power and control. While that might be understandable on a certain level, does it follow that someone else practicing a related style of artistry will have a negative impact on the revitalization of Inuit culture? How would it, and by what mechanism? I think this line of reasoning deserves a lot more scrutiny than it has been given. From my perspective it’s a non-sequitur.

      • Posted by David on

        To answer your question Kaitlyn, it’s the haphazard nature of the accusations and the fact they so frequently there is a lack any consistent application of rules. That’s what I just can’t get.
        For example :”Lack of acknowledgment to where the style ( Kattajaq) originates from is ignorant and is understandable why Inuit were offended. ” But I showed the importance Rap has to African American culture. It has always been a tool to fight oppression and the style goes back to slavery. So it forces the question” why do Inuit have this right, but African Americans don’t? Why does only one group get this protection?
        As well :”I would say it is less offensive if a marginalized Inuk/ White rapper connects to rap and uses the style because he’s using it as a tool to uplift his people from the product of their colonization, because African-Americans have claimed rap as their own, already .” Assuming you’re correct ( although there is a profit motive here that strongly challenges that)

        • Posted by David on

          Ooops, my computer is getting old. I’l continue.

          Inuit decided Connie was guilty, but when it comes to rap…… why don’t African Americans have a say? Why is it not their decision? This is what I mean by no clear application of rules. The rules always seem like they are made up on the fly so they meet an end.

          If you’re asking my opinion, cultural appropriation in music, isn’t a real thing. If you pay attention you will see that all music today really has borrowed from other cultures, all of it. That’s just a present day reality and you’re completely ignoring that reality to make cultural appropriation claims.

          • Posted by Fake Plastic Tree on

            The question of who gets to decide what is appropriation is interesting. It seems anyone who can credibly say they belong to a specific identity group has an inheritance on that authority. But this leads to endless inconsistencies and contradictions too. For example, there are many Inuit who say Tanya Tagaq’s style of throat singing is not traditional, some even find it offensive. Should she stop doing it? Should she call it something else? Is it even kattajaq? When you ask “why don’t African Americans have a say? ” Who do we ask specifically? Do we take a poll, or is there some specific class who arbitrates on issues like this? The idea that all black Americans or all Inuit or all *insert identity here* share the same views on certain issues is a mirage, but it’s a convenient one if you are trying to wield power through the use of identity.

            • Posted by David on

              I am not for a second saying African Americans need to be asked permission. I am pointing out the obvious inequalities that exist in this specific case though.

              But since you asked ( I know you didn’t) I am an old guy and here is what I remember of the 80’s. I distinctly remember when hip hop and rap became popular and profitable, many original artists were fuming mad that non black artists were adopting rap and hip hop culture. It was consistently on the news and debated “do blacks own hip hop”. This was a real issue that was much bigger than the throat singing debate this year.
              Meanwhile, while this debate happened, Canadian indigenous helped themselves to rap and hip hop and claimed it as their own. Not just the songs, but the culture and fashion.
              That’s why I find this so curious………… the irony is very strong here.

              • Posted by Fake Plastic Tree on

                I know you didn’t mean they need to give permission. I was agreeing with you, in an unclear way admittedly, and pointing to how such a process wouldn’t even make sense. On another note, I remember the 80s also and the debate you are talking about. A lot of black artists were still sore at the time about Elvis ostensibly copying Little Richard and maybe some others. Eminem said it best in my opinion: “they connected to me too because I look like them”. That’s probably true. White kids en masse probably were more receptive to one of their own doing hip hop. In the same way other groups have fought for screen time in film, or representation on TV, knowing it would have an esteem benefit for their culture. Back to this case, there really is a convoluted rule set around who gets to take what. I’ve heard it said that it’s only appropriation if a dominant group takes from a marginalized group, the same kind of logic we sometimes see applied to who can be a racist (only a member of the dominant group, of course). To me these kinds of absurdities are grounded in a revenge ethos. The point being to inflict guilt and shame on Euro-Canadian culture.

  5. Posted by bnuts on

    anons gonna hate

  6. Posted by Positive Vibes from a fellow Half Breed Artist on

    Thomas you’re an inspiration! Keep it up, don’t let the bastards grind you down.

  7. Posted by David on

    Nobody hating or grinding here. I am just asking an incredibly obvious question. How is Connie guilty of cultural appropriation and Thomas is not, when they are both doing the exact same thing?

  8. Posted by White dad, Inuk son on

    “I was too Inuk for the white and too white for Inuk, essentially.”

    My young son will eventually deal with this too. People are funny though. They may reject you at first, but if you are successful they will both want to claim you.

  9. Posted by Shamus on

    No, that did not happen, David. What original artists? Were you reading RapPages and the Source at the time? There may have been a few news stories during Vanilla Ice’s time that were like that, but it was not some big controversy.

    The 80s rap scene only had a few white rap groups, like the Beastie Boys and 3rd Bass. Both of whom are considered legendary and much loved and respected in the hip hop community.

    No need to throw all this shade on the article. Appropriation of Inuit style throat singing is not the same thing as mainstream hip hop and how it has spread to other cultures around the world. It’s the hip hop nation. Good luck to you, Thomas. Well done.

    • Posted by Kaptain Kurious on

      Hey Shamus, interesting perspective. What are the main differences to you between the appropriation of hip hop vs that of throat singing? Curious to know.

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