Canadian Métis rapper Troy Junker will release his new EP, The Path, July 20, a collection of tracks that finds him focusing on one thing: love. And although Junker draws his musical inspiration from recent hip-hop heroes like J Cole and Mac Miller, his intention isn’t that far removed from what the Beatles were saying in 1967 that love is the strongest force on the earth.
It’s a shift in lyrical focus for Junker that largely came after a conversation he had with a promoter of a show he played at Opaskwayak Cree Nation. Having heard Junker perform his songs about the partying lifestyle, the promoter pointed out the negative impact such messages often have on young Indigenous audiences. It prompted Junker to take a different approach and inject more positivity into his raps, resulting in The Path’s overall aim to offer hope.
It’s a message that Junker freely admits he could have used himself while growing up in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. But after dropping out of high school, he worked to get his life in order by taking a job at a Saskatchewan uranium mine for three years while developing musical ideas with a variety of collaborators around North America during his downtime.
After deciding to fully commit to a music career, he moved to Ontario where he enrolled in Durham College’s Music Business Management program and released his debut EP, Time Capsule, soon after. As Junker continued to forge new connections and briefly work behind the scenes for some notable artists, he kept experimenting with his sound while also doing what he could to support other Indigenous artists.
All of these efforts appear to be paying off, with The Path putting Junker in the position to make some more bold moves in the near future. We recently spoke to him about all of it, and you can find out more at troyjunker.com.
It's notable that your new release is called The Path, as your own career path continues to take some interesting turns. What was your mindset as you were creating these songs?
I wanted the lyrics to have a positive outlook with deeper messages that my fans can take with them—something that might be better for the youth than some of the stuff I’d done in the past. A lot of it was learning as I went along, and doing co-writes with my friends about how I was feeling.
What songs on the record are you particularly proud of, or might have a message specific to the time we're living in right now?
One of my favourites on The Path is called Inhale Exhale, which I did with Joey Stylez. I met him at the beginning of my journey because we’re both from Saskatchewan. It was a real blessing to get him on my project. But as far as messages go, I’d have to highlight the song Waves, which features Larisa Santiago. I hope it can help people stay strong in tough times.
What originally drew you to hip-hop?
I was drawn to hip-hop because of the storytelling. The first rap song I remember hearing was How Long Will They Mourn Me by Tupac Shakur, which just made me stop and go ‘Holy —’ I’d never heard anyone express themself through music like that before, and I was inspired to start trying to do it myself. Things just grew from there.
As an Indigenous artist, are you hopeful that Canada is starting to embrace more diversity when it comes to music?
I’m very hopeful, but I think it’s largely thanks to the internet and people discovering things there. Listeners are going to like what they’re going to like. If you’re asking whether the government and the media are embracing more diverse artists, I think they’re trying. But I see it more from the perspective of big cities versus smaller places. Too much funding for the arts has been getting cut and that hurts a lot of people across the country trying to do innovative things.
How have you been adapting to releasing music during the pandemic?
I’ve been sticking to my plan and going as hard as I can while trying to remain authentic. So far it’s been great to see my fans are liking the songs and new people are finding me. This sounds geeky but I like the challenge of getting myself out there on the internet. It’s something I’m constantly working on.