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Valedictorian finds creative outlet through rap and dance

Jaydin Nungaq was an Inuksuk High School valedictorian just a few months ago.
Jaydin Nungaq in his home recording studio. He saved his summer job money to expand on his studio equipment and instruments. Photo courtesy of Jaydin Nungaq

Jaydin Nungaq was an Inuksuk High School valedictorian just a few months ago.

Now the graduate is schooling himself in rap, hip-hop and spoken-word recording projects in his growing bedroom studio.

Found on streaming sites like SoundCloud, YouTube, Apple and Spotify under the name Young Keen, Nungaq, 18, is investing his summer job income to expand his collection of instruments.

He’s planning to add a saxophone to his microphone, speakers, guitar, keyboard and computer, which stir his creative juices daily for hours.

“Music is my life … all that stuff, it really just reflects who I am as a person,” he says. “I want to make stuff that is really highly developed and super good quality.”

He’s teaching himself to play guitar and piano on his keyboard by watching instructional videos on YouTube.

“I’m a committed person,” he says, citing American rapper Logic as one of his major influences.

As youth outreach coordinator with the Department of Family Services, he and a colleague established a camp this summer that allowed local kids to watch movies, play on the turf and go to the park. Backpacks were handed out afterwards to help them prepare for a return to school.

“This was a group of kids that we were able to connect to and get to know them more as individuals,” Nungaq says, adding that he wants to help them build confidence and motivation.

He says he tells youths that education can also mean opportunities to get involved in programs like Skills Canada, to travel and to socialize.

“You’re young and you have all that energy that you can throw on to all these activities,” he says.

While in high school, Nungaq was able to partake in a pre-COVID trip to Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands. He also boarded a plane to Toronto to participate in a two-week dance camp, as hip-hop and contemporary dance are among his other passions. Fellow dancers at the event were Indigenous students from various parts of Canada, so he learned about their cultures and history and he shared his as an Inuk.

“It was absolutely amazing,” he recalls.

Before the camp wrapped up, they performed their dance routine at the Sony Centre in Toronto in front of about 100 people.

“As I got older, I realized that I actually loved to dance because it just made me happy. It got me to connect with people who I thought I’d never talk to,” he says.

In the future, Nungaq would love for his musical and dance talents to raise his profile on the entertainment scene.

“In the next five to 10 years, I’m hoping that I’m travelling the world and I’m making more connections with bigger artists, and I’m able to come back to my city when I’m a little more wealthier from my passion in music,” he says. “I hope to give back to my community. I hope to make a bigger impact to Nunavut overall, and I hope to help myself and my family, especially with this musical career because I strive for success and happiness every day with this.”