Nelson Tagoona grew up in Baker Lake, Nunavut, in an Inuit community that retained the old ways of hunting and fishing but was vexed with all-too-common modern Indigenous problems. The suicide rate was high, and in fact that's how Tagoona lost his father, while Nelson himself struggled with depression and bullying.
Fortunately, Nelson Tagoona could apply himself to music. He started playing guitar at age 7, and was writing his own music in his teens. He also learned the Inuit vocal style of throatsinging.
"There are things that really break you down in life and that’s the fuel to my music," Tagoona told CTV News. "When I’m composing my music, I’m in tears, and I’m really shaking and I’m nervous ... scared even. But by the time I’m done with the piece, I can really see how it went from negative, dark … to being full of life, full of courage, full of positivity."
Tagoona calls his art form "throatboxing"—a combination of throatsinging and beatboxing—and as you can see from the video below, the positivity is contagious:
Tagoona is highly active with Aboriginal youth in remote communities—kids whose backgrounds look a lot like his own. He participates in the National Centre for the Arts’ Music Alive program, which sends hip hop artists with children in Canada's northern communities, and Blueprint for Life, which uses hip hop workshops to help kids deal with domestic abuse, sexual assault and suicide.