Joey Stylez was waiting for a ride in Detroit when the Regional Optimist phoned him for an interview. He says he has no real headquarters right now; he is presently enjoying the nomad lifestyle of his people.
Stylez, an award winning hip hop, rap and pop artist, was born Joseph Laplante in North Battleford, a member of the Moosomin First Nation. He grew up in Saskatoon, where his parents still live.
Having just released the single Party with Hugh from his new album, Feather + Rosary, you can catch him online in the dance tune that features Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner. But you'd be wrong if you thought a catchy ditty was all Stylez is about.
A person may want different things from music at different times, he says. Sometimes people want to dance, and sometimes they want to connect with something more serious, he explains. In addition to expressing himself, he hopes to educate and inspire through his music.
It is important to him, he says, when he receives kind messages from his followers or they tell him he's helped them through a bad day. He was thrilled that one fan did a paper on him in school.
In his mid-20s, Stylez has worked hard to gain commercial success as a performer and recording artist, but while he says he is happy to "enjoy the fruits of his labour," he has not lost sight of how far he's come.
He knows about partying in the penthouses of Los Angeles, but he also knows about living in low income housing in Saskatoon and wanting something more than gang life and poverty.
"I've seen it first hand."
Neither has he lost sight of his heritage. He returns to Saskatchewan as often as he can.
"I have lots of extended family in Saskatoon and Moosomin," he says.
One thing he always tries to do when he comes home is to visit the cemetery on Moosomin First Nation. There he connects with his ancestors, Cree and Métis.
"I love going to the cemetery," says the young artist.
Stylez says he comes from a Roman Catholic family, and has no quarrels with any religion, only respect for all.
"At the core, they all want what's best for humankind," he says.
As for himself, he follows mainly traditional native practices and treasures a relationship with the Creator. Talking to the Creator has helped him through some dark times, he says.
He also considers himself fortunate to have had people around him who have been good teachers.
Stylez lives a vegan, sober lifestyle.
The body is a temple, he says.
"You have to have a healthy mind to have a healthy spirit."
When asked what he would say to the aboriginal people of his home province caught up in addictions, he encourages them to put "value on life" and to live for their dreams.
"They've lost track of who they are," he says.
Traditionally, native people have been the healthiest people on Earth, says Stylez, with natural diets high in protein. However, today's starchy, sugary diet has taken its toll on native people, he says, citing obesity and diabetes, and many have become victims to alcoholism and other addictions.
"Our genetic makeup isn't the same," says Stylez. "There have been long term effects, but we can't be dinosaurs. We have to move into the future and embrace the world as it is now."
To create a new future, Stylez believes you have to do two things.
First, you have to commit.
"Commitment is hard," he says, "but even if you're starving to death, the dream will feed you."
Second, he said, you have to have faith. You have to stay on track, educate your mind and treat your body as a temple, he says.
Stylez latest album, Feather + Rosary, is described as a collection of songs that reflect his growth as an artist and as an individual. The Feather + Rosary tour kicked off Nov. 5 in the Yukon. He will be travelling from Ontario across to the west coast, finishing in Vancouver. He will play Saskatchewan venues Dec. 12, 13 and 14 in Regina, Saskatoon and Prince Albert, respectively.
Feather + Rosary is a continuation of his musical growth with the Juno nominated 2011 album Blackstar, named after his grandmother. Stylez has been featured on Much Music and his songs have crossed over from aboriginal music stations to mainstream radio, while winning numerous awards from the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards to the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. He also mentors established and up-and-coming hip-hop acts through his label, Stressed Street Entertainment.
He says his next steps are to release a few more singles off Feather + Rosary, but he's not looking too far into the future right now.
"We'll see where it takes me."
Stylez also has interests in art and in clothing design, but wherever he goes, his future will be bright.
"It will always be bright if you let it," he says.