Dylan Jones, a.k.a Crook the Kid, has never stopped speaking to people from his hometown deep in the Sahtu through his music.

“No matter how you listen to it or look at it, you know I’m speaking of Fort Good Hope,” he says of his new album, Locals Only, which he will debut on the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre stage in Yellowknife Friday.

“The people – in every story, in every line – should know who they are and this album about Fort Good Hope will make it so that we don’t disappear in a sense, well what my generation went through anyway.”

Sharing his message, what he calls his addition to the oral history of the North, is urgent for Jones. “A lot of my friends are dead and most of them died of helplessness,” he says bluntly.

His own start in music began in his hometown, population 570, during a time when he and many of those around him were struggling with mental health. “It gets hard to see past those dirty gravel roads,” he says. So he began to write rap music and share it with those around him.

“It was built on needing to speak about something before I joined the popular statistic,” Jones says. “I was sort of voicing things that had happened to me, sort of saying them out loud for the first time.” He received messages from people thanking him for speaking out about “death and suicide and everything else that comes along with isolated life.”

Music is an important part of life in small, isolated communities, Jones says. Social gatherings, feasts, drum dances are infused with music whether it be drumming, traditional music or fiddle. The blunt messaging of hip hop and rap spoke to him.

“As our generation existed in one of Fort Good Hope’s hardest times…a lot of us just connected to hip hop music and felt as though a lot of the things rap artists at the time (were saying) hit home for us.”

From budding hip hop artists asking him for advice to young people creating artwork or building careers, Jones sees hope in the new generation in his community.

“I notice the change in where I’m from, the change in the mindset of what you can accomplish, that there is a hell of a lot more out there in the world than a dirt road.”

Jones is part of NACC’s mentorship program – through it, he created and launched Locals Only in November 2018. The title track features fellow NWTers Tiffany Ayalik and Casey Koyczan (Nahga). He is now lining up tour dates across the country for the next year.

With four children, his wife and studies in Fort Smith, being on the road can be a challenge Jones says. “At times you’re sitting in a hotel room waiting for a performance and worried about an animal life history report at the same time. And trying to get a minute to facetime the kids and make sure you bring home a nice trinket.”

There is even a tour of Eastern Europe set for next year. “I’ve never left Canada, you crazy?,” when asked if this will be his first time traveling there. “I’m just raised in the bush. I’m from Fort Good Hope, born and raised.”

Crook the Kid will perform Friday, February 22nd on the NACC stage starting at 7:30 p.m., in a show where audience members are encouraged to get close to the stage and dance.