Mister Lee Cloutier-Ellsworth never makes up anything for a song. He’s seen first-hand the havoc that anger, isolation, substance abuse, and suicide can wreak on the lives of Nunavut youth. He shines a spotlight on those hard realities by speaking lyrically to his generation in a new album 1997, launched in September.
The 22-year-old Iqaluit hip-hop artist, who goes by FXCKMR on stage, calls his work a fusion of hip-hop, metal, rock, and modern rap (called trap). He’s drawn to eerie beats, fit for the club or a heavy workout. He’s become known for a single launched pre-album, with an explicit title referencing his face tattoo.
“The album, you feel it’s someone who is alone and really wants to come out of their shell, but doesn’t know how. They are angry and they really want to be open and honest and talk to people.” That’s a feeling that resonates with many Nunavut youth in his generation, he says. “In the North, everyone wants to isolate themselves. These are real things that me and my friends and people I went to school with. These are all feelings that we feel.”
As for the intensity of his art-form, he’s unapologetic for the heavy content and profane prose. “This is something that needs to be heard,” he says.
Cloutier-Ellsworth craves the energy his songs pulse with—he’ll get wild and even angry on stage. He performed 1997 in April at the Iqaluit Legion, for the second installment of Akuluk Music’s Nunavut Music Week. It’s a show that he’s been told was his best performance to date, and it was viewed by visiting southern agents, artists, and music media. Now he’s looking forward to the launch of a second twin album for 1997 that while still dealing with heavy content, follows a “happier” theme, he says.
“It reflects a different part of my mind and the emotions that I choose to have,” he says. “I don’t want to be in this dark space anymore. I appreciate the experience I went through to be able to write those songs because they are expressive of what it’s like to grow up here in my generation. I want people to feel like I’m OK.”
He’s been writing prose since he was 17; ever since a talent show lined up with his high school poetry unit. He and a group of friend began writing together, free-styling to beats and feeding off each other’s ideas.
But his passion for music came fully into focus last year when Cloutier-Ellsworth’s music idol, rapper Mac Miller, died of a drug overdose. He was left in shock. “Ever since I was super motivated. I’ve worked harder this year. I became more aware of myself, and of what I want to talk about as opposed to trying to learn from someone else’s story to tell my story.”
And 1997 really is introspective for Cloutier-Ellsworth, with tracks like “Zzzzzz,” which musically is a kind of dreamscape. “It was a concept of dreams and my subconscious yelling at me and being too intense for me to keep up,” he says. “It’s the creepiest song on the album. It’ll throw you off. It’s very honest and open.”