Adam Tanuyak, known to many as rapper Hyper-T, is on a roll. He has churned out four music videos over the past four months, giving him seven videos to his name in total.
Two films – The Grizzlies and Iqaluit: The Movie – have incorporated his music into their soundtracks.
He’s also working on his first album, which he hopes will lead to a future nomination from the Indigenous Music Awards.
This momentum didn’t build swiftly. At age 32, Tanuyak has been rhyming since he was a teenager. He more recently made a major financial investment by acquiring video and production equipment to shoot the videos, which were shot in Iqaluit, where he now lives.
“I felt like I had good music but my music wasn’t going as far as I felt like it should be. I think visuals seem to be the next best thing right now… I knew I wanted to get my music out there,” he said of the videos, which are posted on YouTube.
He’s been doing the production himself, other than the most recent one, Takulaarivagit – which translates as “I will see you again.” He put that one together with Jordan Konek.
Tanuyak tackles anguish straight on. Some of his songs revolve around suicide, alcoholism and other destructive behaviour. The lyrics were inspired by his own life experiences, he said. Those raw messages have resonated with some Nunavummiut, judging by the feedback he’s received.
“The youth, I find, the ones who are struggling with alcohol or their parents are alcoholics or they’re facing mental health issues and thinking about suicide, I get a lot of messages like that,” he said. “They say they listen to my music, they understand what I’m saying and it’s what’s kept them alive.”
While attending the Nunavut Sivuniksavut college program in Ottawa more than a decade ago, Tanuyak matched his rhymes with the beats of the late Tolok Havioyak of Kugluktuk, who really gave him a push.
“I didn’t really believe in myself or believe there could be an Inuk rapper,” he recalled. “If I’d never met (Havioyak), I would have never really taken music seriously… I just didn’t really see the vision or see the light in it until I met him.”
Major rap stars like Tupac and Eminem were his early influences, but Tanuyak’s outlook gradually evolved and he made a point of recording some of his lyrics in Inuktitut, such as in the track Ugguaqpunga, “I’m sorry.”
“You being yourself, representing your environment, your culture, I think it’s more impactful,” he explained.
Hyper-T plans to be back in the studio this summer and is aiming to release his album before the end of the year.
Although the early years were lean, he is glad he’s struck with his zeal for music, and he feels the Northern scene is gaining broader recognition.
“I really had to learn everything on my own and not having anyone to show me how to do things. It was really hard the first couple of years. It’s only been recently I find you’re starting to have a lot more Inuit rappers in Nunavik and Nunavut,” he said. “Especially living in Nunavut, there’s not a big music industry but it’s really starting to grow now with Kelly Fraser being a Juno nominee and The Jerry Cans as well being a Juno nominee and they’ve been travelling the world.”
Here are some of Hyper-T’s latest videos: