It’s been just over a year since 16-year-old rapper Shaeden Letts relocated from Yellowknife to Ottawa with dreams of making it in the music industry.
So far, he feels like the move has been fruitful.
“It’s bigger than where I’m originally from,” the Yellowknife-born teenager said during a walk along the Rideau Canal. “It was a big adjustment, but after a year, I got used to it.”
Letts, who is a “proud citizen of Tlicho First Nation” on his biological father’s side and of Salish heritage on his mother’s, performs under the alias ShaedyDain.
He and his parents made their big move south in August of 2022, and now live with his grandparents in an Ottawa neighbourhood called Riverside Park while he attends grade 11 at Glebe Collegiate Institute in the city centre.
While he often misses his best friend in Yellowknife, he believes he would have had a difficult time achieving his music dreams if he stayed there.
“All I could do was write and record on my phone and then post on an app called Band Lab, and that’s a small platform,” he said. “In the North, it’s almost impossible to be known everywhere.”
Letts, with a little help from his father, has already found some useful resources in Ottawa, notably a studio and creative space for recording artists called the Real House of Ensemble.
With the guidance of the team at the studio, the 16-year-old recorded a four-song EP called Strain, which was released on major streaming platforms like Spotify on Sept. 30—the third annual National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Just a few days later, on Oct. 4, he released a follow-up single called Make a Stand, which is also available across streaming platforms.
His favourite creation so far, he said, is the second track on his Strain EP, called Crazy.
“I think the lyrics on that one are very good,” he said. “The flow is very well done too. Quality-wise, it’s probably the best song I’ve made.”
Musically, Letts draws inspiration from his favourite rapper Trippie Redd, as well as industry icons like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole, all Americans. The inspiration for his lyrics, meanwhile, comes from closer to home, touching on themes like trauma, addiction, and racism.
Those themes will also appear in his next project, a seven or eight-track album he hopes to release in November, which will also explore the reasons he wanted to leave Yellowknife.
“Right before I left Yellowknife, I was telling everyone who was telling me I couldn’t do it that I was going to do it, and that I was going to make it,” he said. “In the next album, there’s songs where I talk about why I moved.
“I’m really excited. I’ve been writing, writing, writing songs in school, on my notes [app] on my phone.”
With several releases on Spotify, and more on the way, Letts is confident he will find success as a musician, and soon, as long as he keeps working.
“[People back home] are surprised I’m even on Spotify and stuff,” he said. “I think I have a good start. From what I’ve heard, a lot of the big [rappers] blew up when they were 18 or 19, so I think I have lots of time to work on it.
“I just have to keep the grind going.”