Christian Monias

Beats and Blessings: Christian-John Monias Produces a Career and a Life Well-Lived

“I just feel very blessed for what my art has done for me,” says Christian-John Monias, who is a music artist, producer and stand up comedian. He also goes by CJAY GRiZ. Born in Winnipeg and raised in the eastern Cree territory, in the James Bay Area of Quebec, he’s been making music since he was a teenager. These days, he concentrates on producing music, releasing his own music sometimes but spending most of his time making beats.  

Growing up, he was into rap music because he found it relatable. He tried to write like the examples he heard, rapping along to instrumentals or recordings he downloaded from the internet. He always wanted to learn how to make beats and it came out of necessity to be able to make his own raps. Monias fell in love with the process and finds he can spend a whole day just creating and be really happy. “One thing I like about music production is that you get to decide everything that happens in there. You're the creator,” he explains. He would meet up with his friends and make beats, producing music together.

When he was in school, Monias’ music teachers encouraged his love of music and taught him things. He had a lot of mentors and along with rap music, he listened to pop and rock. Monias was part of N’we Jinan back in 2014 and that’s how he was exposed to the process of releasing music, putting it out there and making sure it’s polished.

After being part of such an enriching experience, he was able to implement what he learned in his own music and furthered his learning through YouTube tutorials, online articles and videos made by other producers. Monias was fascinated by what he was learning, spending nights soaking up as much information as he could. By attending networking events and programs, Monias was able to meet people who would help him with his musical journey. Most of his learning in building his music career has been informal.

One of the challenges he faces is that he does everything on his own, from producing beats, mixing, writing, pretty much everything along the way to releasing a song, even down to the cover art and managing the website. He manages it all himself and has had to spread his focus across a bunch of different areas.

Illustration by Shaikara David

Something else that has been challenging in his music career has been finding places to perform without a manager or agent to connect him. He’s been trying to establish more of a presence so people will be more likely to reach out to him. Where he’s from there are a lot of events, with something happening usually every month. Monias finds opportunities to perform through his social connections typically, connecting with people who host events and getting involved that way. Speaking of events, Monias was a recipient of the Producer Of The Year Award 2023 at the International Indigenous Hip Hop Awards Show.

If he could send a message to a younger version of himself, Monias would say, “Put yourself out there more. Focus hard on actually finishing your projects. Just stay out of trouble. Take care of yourself. I could tell myself a million things, but mostly, put yourself out there and believe in what you're gonna do, because you can get further. I've seen it happen.”

To balance his mental wellness and well-being by attending ceremony, something he’s found to be very healing and a good way to reset himself. He’s hoping to go to a sundance and he’s started attending therapy as a way to manage the things in his mind he feels are “messy”. The experience has shifted his perspective on therapy and it’s something he encourages people to try, hoping they can get past the stigma and find new ways to take care of themselves. Spending time with his daughter is something he really enjoys, appreciating her imaginative nature, her creativity and sense of humour. He sees a lot of himself in his daughter.

What brings Monias inspiration is honouring that his career is a blessing and a gift, that he gets to share his life, thoughts and experiences with the world and that it has brought him places he never thought he would go. Through his work, Monias has had many opportunities and it has contributed to him doing well in life. Everyday life, things he thinks about and his lived experiences bring him inspiration, too.

Feeling very blessed for what his art has done for him, Christian-John Monias, CJAY GRiZ, is making beats and the best life he can from what he’s been through. Leaning into gratitude, connection and his own curiosity to learn more, he’s been able to build a career and a library of music that represents who he is as a person and share that with his audiences wherever he goes.

Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.

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Key Parts

  • Career
  • Identity
    First Nations
    ,
    ,
  • Province/Territory
    Quebec
  • Date
    October 8, 2023
  • PSI
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  • Discussion Guide
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