Drumbeats and Rap Beats: Patrick Kelly Reconnects With Tradition
Rapper and recording artist Patrick Kelly, aka Hope, is the co-founder of Rudegang Entertainment in Vancouver. Now a video producer and co-founder of Status Krew, a rap duo with rhyme partner Doobie, he grew up on Leq'a:mel First Nation reserve in Deroche, BC, part of Sto:lo Nation.
"The greatest things about rap is being able to be in certain situations, be able to talk about those things, and make it sound beautiful, and something that people want to listen to."
Kelly’s motivation to rap began on the reserve. It reflected his feelings as an Indigenous person and let him express himself. He first listened to artists like Tupac but also connected with his aunt and uncles speaking in the smokehouse with no microphones, appreciating how strong their voices were.
He started writing in his friends’ basements, surrounded by and engaging in substance misuse, alcohol, and concerning behaviour. Kelly wrote for a few years before taking it seriously, going into the studio and learning how to make a track. Eventually he confidently performed live.
"We make the decisions to do music, sometimes out of pain. We're doing these things on our own journey of healing."
He opened for Moka Only, then Madchild, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Between building Status Krew and Rudegang Entertainment, Kelly’s worked hard. Focused on helping youth and taking care of elders, he sees music as a way to get there. Recording songs, he thinks, "In 10 years, will I look back and be like, "Why did I say that? Why did I do that? Or why did I make it so boring?""
"Putting in all this work and understanding that it's an art form and that you have something to give to the community, and you have a story that is inspiring.... It's great to learn to put a price on that."
Kelly learned about bookings and contracts with no art background, coming from a place of hustle, wheel and deal and having dropped out of school. He learned his value, how to budget and protect himself legally. Kelly learned how to set boundaries by saying no without being negative from more experienced artists.
“I do get asked a lot to do things because I'm indigenous. And at that where you're like, "Yo, you want my culture now? You're not just asking me as a human, you're asking me because I'm native."
Growing up amidst cornfields, cows and many reserves, he witnessed territorial fighting and a gang mentality. “That's the reality of the reserves, you can be fighting and that is your blood relative. But yet we're threatening each other on so many different levels,” Kelly recalled.
Kelly left for New York on what was supposed to be a three week stay. He landed a job and moved in with his sister, hustling long days for low pay, hoping to make it in the city and not return to the reserve. Now back in Vancouver, he’s working at a stressful, high-paced restaurant while making music. Even still, he finds it easier than New York’s pace.
“The transition there and back, when I came back, I cried. I couldn't even handle it, because I came from this place, and I had changed so much.”
His advice for youth leaving their community for opportunity like he did is to be safe and not afraid to ask questions. Kelly defines safety as physical and mental self care, avoiding toxicity in people, places and situations. He pays attention to nutrition so he can feel his best on stage and handle difficult situations more effectively when healthy.
Kelly maintains his mental health by being proactive, challenging himself to do things he doesn’t want to do, and taking initiative. He learned his work ethic and determination in part from his sister and the discipline she modeled through her long runs.
Family motivates Kelly, as a step father and a member of a huge family with lots of little cousins and cousins he grew up with like brothers and sisters. After being given a chance to pull himself out of a difficult situation, Kelly wants to motivate others on his reserve to work together and do the same.
“My motivation is... I grew up on a reserve, man. How much more motivation can you have when you have really bad things happen and they're normal? It's so normal.”
Now Kelly looks to learn more about his culture, to fish, to hunt, to play the drum, make art, identify herbs and medicines and what they can do. Once motivated to escape the reserve, he’s realizing how much he could have learned from his neighbours. He was focussed on making money when he could have learned his culture.
“I've made a lot of money and I've been out here and money comes and goes so easily. But one thing that I don't have is salmon….It's a real big problem to not know these things.”
Reflecting on that knowledge gap, Kelly recognizes the impact of colonization. “We had our culture taken from us, and that's what they wanted. They want us to assimilate, get in line, get working, pay your taxes,” he explained. He mourns the loss but is reconnecting with tradition moving forward.
Returning to his cultural teachings, he wants to hunt, gather and eat from the land and waters he was raised on. He reflects on the traditional roles within Indigenous families that were taken through assimilation and how people are trying to find their way and reconnect to cultural ways of living.
From the rap beat to the drumbeat, his star is rising. While making a living in modern music, he’s learning to make a life exploring his traditional culture. Connecting to the land he once ran from, this big fish from a small pond is reconnecting with salmon once more. The Sto:lo are people of the river and in reconnecting, rapper Patrick “Hope” Kelly is finding his flow.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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