Album: The World (And Everything in It)
Producer: Jay Mak
Label: Arbor Records Ltd.
Back in the late aughts, Team Rezofficial dropped a track so undeniably cold it would bust open the door for Indigenous hip-hop in Canada. “Lonely,” off their sophomore album The World (And Everything in It), became the first song by an Indigenous act to not only crack the top ten on MuchMusic’s seminal RapCity countdown, but make it all the way to No. 1. The collective—composed of producers Jay Mak and Stomp, and MCs HellnBack, Drezus, and Tomislav, respectively repping the First Nations of Maskwacis, Alberta, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg—were impossible to ignore, giving nation-wide visibility to communities that justifiably felt overlooked and forgotten by the rest of the country.
Over a swinging, 6/8 beat that kinda sounds like a flip of “The Imperial March,” the group brings representation to the reservation with confidence and authority. “We grind on the streets, find us on them beats,” they chant collectively on the contagious hook, coming off like they’re screaming orders amid a heist of the Canadian hip-hop scene. The rappers then take turns spitting lyrically dextrous, charismatic bars about their relentless, take-all-comers hustle and desire to “come through for the people.” It’s not hard to imagine the impact “Lonely” had on First Nations kids seeing its music video in constant rotation on TV; it’s a braggadocious, empowering anthem that defiantly thumped its chest in the face of a system that aimed to silence and erase them, and beat the drum for a generation of Indigenous hip-hop acts, from A Tribe Called Red to Snotty Nose Rez Kids, who would follow in Team Rezofficial’s wake. —Alex Nino Gheciu