SYDNEY — Todd Googoo, better known as "ShiFT from tha 902" in the music world, is hoping to be the first musician from his community to win an East Coast Music Award, and on May 6 he'll have two chances to make that happen.
Googoo, who is from We'koqma'q First Nation, is nominated in two categories — rap/hip hop recording of the year for his album "This Ones for You" and Indigenous artist of the year.
Growing up in the small community with a population of under a thousand people, he was exposed to a few older kids who were rapping and making music and took a lot of inspiration from them, as well as from other artists he was listening to at the time, such as Nova Scotia rapper Classified, who is also in the running for rap/hip hop recording of the year along with a handful of other awards.
Googoo started making music of his own before he even reached middle school, and started recording when he was 16 after his mother gave him a microphone for Christmas. At that point, he was rapping every day, but it wasn't until five years ago that he started thinking of music as a career.
At 25 years old, he now has one full-length album and a couple of EPs that he recorded with Sean Lewis at his studio in Whitney Pier, and he's worked with Matthew Ingraham of Renegade Entertainment to make some music videos that are available on his YouTube channel.
As someone who enjoys playing to a live audience, he's found the last year tough.
"I'm just looking forward to performing again," he said.
Googoo grew up listening to his father Terry singing traditional Mi'kmaq songs at pow wows, and while he says his culture may not have directly influenced his music, he has a lot of respect for the traditional music.
"I try to make music that everybody's into. I'm not a traditional native hip-hop artist. When you listen to one of my songs, you wouldn't even know I'm from the rez (reserve) unless I mentioned it," he said.
Googoo releases his music on streaming services such as Spotify, which has been a great way to gain fans and support from around the world.
"Lately I'm getting a lot of listens from Japan," he said.
We'koma'q's Chief Annie Bernard-Daisley says Googoo is a down-to-earth person and a talented performer who is putting their community on the map.
"I have a lot of pride that Todd is from We'koqma'q and is going places a lot of people have never been and being recognized for his talent, and he's always stood up to be who he is and what he's passionate about, and he's showing the rest of the world now what his potential is and the talent he has," she said.
Bernard-Daisley said she'll be watching the broadcast on May 6 when the awards are announced from Centre 200 in Sydney, and "rooting for him like you wouldn't believe."
Googoo plans to attend the ECMA awards gala with his girlfriend and his mother and has his fingers crossed.
"It feels cool, nobody in my reserve ever did the East Coast Music Awards or been nominated for anything, so I feel blessed that I'm the first one and I want to be the first one to win an award," he said.
Googoo has a new single coming up, featuring Jordan and DJ IV, which will be released on May 7.
Ardelle Reynolds, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cape Breton Post