Friday, Nov. 5 marks a big day for Inuk rapper Jocelyn Arreak, who performs under the name Aocelyn.
That’s when her first album, titled Lovely, will be released.
Of the eight tracks, she’s partial to a tune called Wrong Guy, formerly titled Adore You.
“It’s for couples. It’s got a nice beat, pretty good lyrics, probably the best one I ever had,” she said.
Aocelyn — pronounced “Aw-slin” — wrote most of the lyrics for the album.
Thor Simonsen, CEO of Hitmakerz, the label that signed Aocelyn, did the arranging and mixing of the songs.
The project was in the works since 2020.
“I can’t wait for it to come out. It’s my very first album,” said Aocelyn, 22, who resides in Pond Inlet.
Chief among her musical influences is rapper Eminem.
“I remember when his (first) album came out, no one knew about him. It gives me hope. If (my album) doesn’t succeed, it still gives me hope. That’s what I learned from him.”
Eminem was bullied, she added. That’s something she can relate to.
“I look like a white person to some people. I’m part Black, so they would be racist against me and say stuff about me,” she said. “My dad made me tough — sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”
But she’s aware of how harmful bullying can be. She got to know the late singer Kelly Fraser, whose family revealed after her death that she was tormented by relentless online harassment.
Aocelyn, 22, shared some of her own struggles with Fraser years ago.
“She’s the one who discovered me,” she said. “She called me strong one time because I was going through so much bullying. They would laugh at me and things like that.”
So the accomplishment of releasing an album is a major milestone and a way to overcome her detractors. While her current ambition is to rise to prominence as a musical superstar, she has plans to become a priest by the time she’s 30. Religion is an important part of her life, and part of what gives her strength.
“I only care about what God thinks,” she said.
Her short-term goals include enrolling in the music program at Algonquin College in Ottawa in January. She aims to grasp the foundations of media, film and music through the eight-month program.
She also has ambitions to go on tour across Nunavut, and she’d like to do it with Hitmakerz alumni Shauna Seeteenak and Angela Amarualik.
“Angela is my childhood friend,” she said of Amarualik, as they both grew up in Iglulik.
Of Seeteenak, a fellow rapper from Baker Lake, she said, “I like her. She’s cool.”
The tour would give Aocelyn an opportunity to perform in front of a live audience, something she has yet to do.
I Wish I was a King, the first single off of Lovely is her second release overall. It follows Adventure Awaits, which hit the airwaves in 2019.
Watch I Wish I was a King here:
In September, Aocelyn was one of several artists to attend the Hitmakerz compound in Ottawa for a week of training as an entertainer. While there, she also shot the video for I Wish I was a King, which sees her and her backup dancers flaunting their moves.
“They were so nice, professional, welcoming. They were really good people. I miss them already, I miss hanging out together,” she said of her time in Ottawa.
Simonsen refers to Aocelyn as a “unique artist, not only in Nunavut but in Canada.”
“She doesn’t have much professional training, but she’s got a great ear and very interesting ideas,” he said. “This helps make her songs sound very different from anything else. Jocelyn is also extremely driven, focused, and open to new challenges. I think that’s something that all artists need if they want to make it pro.
“Drive is way more important than skill – you can teach skill, but you can’t teach drive, perseverance, and determination.”