Growing up in Natoaganeg First Nation, Blake Francis was into heavy metal music.
But, like millions of other people at the time, he was also big into Tupac, Biggie and the Wu-Tang Clan.
The sound of those hip hop legends is all over the City Natives catalogue, the east coast rap group Francis co-founded.
Francis was part of the hip hop outfit that racked up numerous awards, for seven years.
Francis, also known as BnE, stepped out on his own in 2018 and released his first sole EP, that was mixed and mastered by Grammy award winning producer David Strickland.
When he first started rapping, it was all about having fun but now Francis feels he can use his voice to make a statement about the injustices Indigenous people face.
“I’m hoping to make it clear that we deserve equality,” says Francis on the latest episode of Face to Face.
“My friend Rodney Levi was recently shot by police and they ruled it suicide by cop. So, there’s things like that, that I’d like to bring to the discussion and hopefully we can see a difference in the Canadian system. And hopefully our Indigenous people can be treated more fairly in the future,” says Francis.
To put down lyrics about real, traumatic experiences that his friends and family are going though can be difficult for Francis, but he believes he can raise some awareness with the platform that he has.
Francis, who is now based in Esgenoopetitj First Nation in New Brunswick says Mi’kma’ki has always played an important role in his life and music.
He grew up hunting and fishing on the territory and despite moving to another First Nation and being in a group called City Natives, he’s never left.
During Francis’ years with City Natives, he did play on some big stages with some of the biggest names in hip hop. Bone Thugs N Harmony, Raekwon, Method Man and Redman, to name a few. If not for a global pandemic, Francis says he’d likely be on the road, right now.
Travel restrictions and not being able to interact with fans has been hard.
“I think that touring is everything. Merch sales and stuff play a big roll in actually funding your career. It’s a pretty competitive thing doing music. You definitely need something to fall back on, it’s not for everybody but you get back what you put in, to be honest,” says Francis.
If the pandemic has been good for one thing, its the writing process says Francis who adds technology has made recording pretty easy.
Francis is also spending the downtime from the road, working on a clothing line.