He's been producing other people's music for years, but now Paul Napash — also known as PaulStar — has a new album of his own.
Napash, who's originally from Chisasibi, a Cree community in northern Quebec, officially released his album Bring It All Together on Friday. The album features genre-bending sounds drawn from rock, alternative and hip-hop.
"I started digging deeper […] I want to promote our culture, language and stories about being Indigenous people," said Napash, who's now based in Smiths Falls, Ont.
The idea behind the album's name comes from combining hip-hop and alternative rock sounds that shape his music style.
His first album, Lost, was released in 2012. He also released an EP, Find Myself, in 2020.
"My influence comes from the '80s and '90s, and some sounds are very modern ... it spans different genres," said Napash.
Napash is CEO of his own recording business called Meikin Records, and he's produced songs for Indigenous groups like Violent Ground and collaborated with Cree Rising, among others. He says he also works with non-Indigenous musicians from around the world.
"I released a few hip-hop tracks in the past. But rock alternative is my main genre. As a producer, I'm not limited to any kind of genre," said Napash.
'As a producer, I'm not limited to any kind of genre,' said Napash. (Sean Sisk Photography)
Napash was nominated for the "producer of the year" award at the International Indigenous Hip Hop Awards two years in a row, in 2021 and 2022.
The songs on his new album were initially a demo he made during the pandemic, but Napash decided that the project was worth a full-length solo album.
"I kept pushing back because I wasn't sure where I was going with it," said Napash, adding that his friends and family encouraged him to keep making music with his new sound.
"That's when I seriously sat down and worked on it more," said Napash
Mentoring Cree students
Napash also hopes to pass down some of his expertise and his love for music to Cree youth. For the next month, he'll be mentoring students as part of a program in Mistissini, Que.
"I hope they learn a lot from me [that will] inspire them to take things so much further — because music is really great. It can change anything, [music] can change lives," said Napash.
Napash takes his skills to northern Cree communities to mentor youth in songwriting. (submitted by Ashley Gagné)
Mikw Chiyâm is an arts concentration program where secondary students in northern Quebec can learn from visiting artists while increasing their attachment to their studies.
"Students often love music residencies. Paul does more than just the music," said Ashley Gagné, who is the Mikw Chiyâm program manager. She said Napash's business skills in creating his own record label can show young people that there are many ways to build a career around music.
"Those entrepreneurial skills are also really nice to share with the students," said Gagne.
Napash will mentor the next cohort of Mikw Chiyâm participants, which currently has 99 registrations from secondary students at Voyageur Memorial School in Mistissini.
Napash has been helping the Mikw Chiyâm program intermittently for the past three years in other Cree communities like Waskaganish and Nemaska.
Napash sets up a recording studio in a northern Cree school classroom. (submitted by Ashley Gagné)
"Having Cree adults come teach Cree youth is just a great example for the students that they can in a few years time be doing something like Paul is," said Gagné.
Napash will teach songwriting and beat-making during his four-week residency, which starts on Jan. 22. He hopes to inspire youth to invest time and energy into their studies, and their passion.
"Keep honing your craft. Keep practicing daily," said Napash.
PaulStar will also be performing at this month's Mistissini Big Rock Eenou Music Festival, which is underway until Saturday.