Alaska Native rapper Samuel Johns has seen his share of troubles. He grew up in the economically depressed village of Copper Center, and struggled with addiction before choosing sobriety seven years ago. He also witnessed domestic violence on a regular basis—and was inspired by the prevalence of abuse to write a song, "Wake Up." "This is for the women that hide behind the makeup," he raps. "Your man, he ain't a man giving you black eyes—wake up." Although the song criticizes the abuser, the real message is for those who suffer abuse but keep giving their abusers second chances. "Baby girl, it's his fault," Johns says, "and you need to believe in you. Leave him."
In a genre that fetishizes the superficial—material possessions, money, etc.—Johns, who uses the stage name AK Rebel, feels his message will hit home with those who share his background. "When it comes to lyrics about domestic abuse, they can picture that in their mind if they’ve been around that," he told Alaska Dispatch News. "They can picture it, they can feel it because it’s real. My target is the younger generation. So they can listen to it and say, ‘Man, I kind of want to make a difference in my community.’”
Here's the video for "Wake Up." The actress, Leah Dugaqua, is herself a survivor of domestic abuse, and practiced the very same bruise-hiding makeup rituals Johns described in his lyrics.
To hear more of Johns' music, visit soundcloud.com/samuel-johns. Here's a video profile from the Alaska Dispatch website: