The Canadian hip hop scene has never seen an artist with a life story like Joey Stylez, the fair skinned Native American boy from the stressed streets of Vancouver with the determination to translate his struggles into a successful music career. Joey’s mother was a Native rights activist, fighting on the front lines for their people’s rights and teaching her son the values and traditions of their heritage, which remain with the Chief of the Nasty North today. These factors have made him a role model for countless struggling youths. Joey talks to Urban Ink about his tats, his troubles and the responsibility of being a role model.
URBAN INK: Tell me about your Native tattoos and their meaning.
Joey Stylez: I got my first tattoo when I was 17. It was of Chief Sitting Bull. He is such a monumental figure to my people. I am inspired by his life and strive to one day be a great figure like him, so it's a perfect reminder. I also have Chief Joseph. I feed off their warrior energy and the legacy they left. I have the Indian outlaw logo on me. My man Swagg Boss was the first to get it, and he really encouraged me to believe in myself at a whole different level, and now I got it too. I also have “Indian Outlaw” in script on my forearm and stomach, because that's what I am! Centered on the back of my shoulders is the west coast style eagle with Cree syllabics below that say, "a gift and a curse.” The gift is having lots of young impressionable eyes on me, so I do not want to steer them on the wrong path, which is the curse.
I am very connected to my Native heritage, but I practice what I preach. I like to do motivational speaking and promote healthy life styles, but I shy away from the anti gang issues because a lot of my family and best friends are still active. So I am not a hypocrite.
How did you get into music and what inspires you to continue to make music today?
It was like a birth right! [laughs] Ever since I can remember, I have been so intrigued by all the legendary musicians who have molded who I am today including Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Tupac, Jim Morrison and Bob Marley among many. I am a huge fan of the arts, so I like my music, movies and art museums. I have love for life. My grandmother also inspires me; she is a traditional Plains Cree woman who is straight from the old ways and the last of her kind. She never speaks English, ever, and practices all the scared ceremonies, even at 92 years old. I have named my debut album, Black Star, which is coming out in a few months, after her.
What’s the latest news on your music and what’s coming?
I recently released the video for my latest single, "Kool Runnin.’" It was top 30 song on national radio and had a smash video to go with it. I’m going to shoot a video for every song on my album. I am a guy who feeds off of visuals so I want to give people what l like. There will be lots of different looks and sounds. This emphasizes my own uniqueness.
I'm all about music that's real and able to capture one’s emotions. I swear my album is as diverse as a soundtrack, because it is one—the soundtrack of my life. Right now my man, legendary actor Adam Beach, is working on getting a script together based loosely on my life and the people surrounding me. Be on the lookout for this and much more. I will not let you down, I promise! Log onto Swagg news or hit me up on facebook, twitter and myspace!
Article by Melissa Bessey
Photography by Matthew Schilling and Anita Ho