David Hodges, hip-hop producer, youth worker, and Director of N’we Jinan, talks to RPM about the growth of the N’we Jinan project and Skicin Generation Vol.4, with music produced from four communities of the Wabanaki Confederacy, dropping August 12.
N’we Jinan is a non-profit mobile music studio that travels to First Nations and Native American communities to empower native youth expression. The project began as a simple music production workshop, but quickly grew into much more for the communities they’ve worked with.
“N’we Jinan works in many different capacities. It’s not always the same when it goes to communities. It starts off as a studio coming in and working with the kids, but it changes. It’s me understanding what the needs actually are in the community,” says David. “The first year it was just a song, but then some communities wanted to do music videos, so now we’ll go into communities and do one song and a music video within a four day residency in the community.”
As N’we Jinan evolved over the past three years, the project has catalogued enough works to release projects commercially; their music videos serve as both a platform for the communities they visit, and as promotional material for the tour. In their continued expansion, N’we Jinan recently held their first two-day music festival in Northern Quebec. The festival featured over 80 N’we Jinan youth artists from various Cree communities across Quebec and one Ojibway group from Northern Ontario.
The N’we Jinan project garnered the attention of the Cree School Board, who have presented David with the opportunity to incorporate the project’s mandate into the school system through an arts concentration program.
“It’s an artist residency program that has Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists come into the schools and work with the kids on art projects that the kids are able to be evaluated on,” David explains. “The program promotes First Nation identity, student voice, and also school retention.” The new education-based program offers a more sustainable solution to N’we Jinan’s temporary residencies on tour.
“Just building the relationships that I’ve built in the last year through our project has been insane. I’m talking to people I never imagined myself talking to for partnerships,” says David. “We want kids to be excited, but we want them to learn and have something to show for themselves at the end. They can explain for themselves why they’re expressing themselves in this way, what is their message and why is it important to them.”
Seven Eagles Media had also taken notice of how N’we Jinan aligned nicely with their own mission to “address the very real issue of invisibility faced by Maine Native people and to provide the First People of Maine with a voice.”
Seven Eagles Media supported David to work with youth in four communities of the Wabanaki Confederacy, and out of that collaboration came Skicin Generation Vol. 4.
“The album that we’re releasing now is Skicin Generation. Skicin meaning “Earth Walker” in Pinobscot. There are eight songs – two songs from each community that I went to,” says David. The tracks come from the Indian Island Penobscot Nation, Pleasant Point Passamaquoddy Nation, Houlton Band of Maliseetsand, and the Aroostook Band of Micmacs.
“On that album, there are two artists on there that are super refined and have studied music, and then there were some who just wanted to rap on it, others are just kids from the youth centre who were there at the time and wanted to participate in it. So there’s a combination of all of that.”
RPM is thrilled to be one of the first to share the voices of the youth in Skicin Generation Vol.4. Keep an eye on RPM for the album pre-sale and new Skicin Generation music video dropping on August 12.