The recent spate of suicides in western Alaska — as well as the very public death at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention — has shocked many around the state. That includes college students Cameron Smith and Forest Strick, who were in Hawaii for school when they saw the headlines.
Far from home, the Alaska Native musicians dealt with the difficult news by putting on their headphones and picking up the mic. The hip-hop duo record under the name “AK’s Finest,” and their latest song is all about spreading peace, love, and positivity — especially to those who are struggling.
Cameron Smith and Forest Strick are from Alaska, but they became friends after meeting at college in Colorado. They started producing music together about a year ago, and they both recently transferred to schools in Hilo, Hawaii. That’s where they heard the news.
“We were chilling one night, and we heard about the suicide that happened at AFN. I was just blown away. I didn’t know what to do, and it was just really a lot for me,” said Cameron, who is from Nome. “We decided that we wanted to make a song for Alaska. We wanted to make a song for our home to give back and let people know that this has got to stop. We need peace, love, and positivity — P.L.P.”
Cameron says he and Forest started working on the song at 4 a.m. Cameron penned the rap, while Forest — who grew up in McGrath and Wasilla — created the beat. A little over 24 hours later, the song was ready.
“P.L.P.” was released on SoundCloud last week and has already been played nearly 900 times on the music-sharing website. Forest said he’s excited about the positive response, and he hopes the song can motivate Alaskans when times are tough — just like music has done for him in the past.
“I go back to my hardest days in life, and it’s always been that one song that I’ve had on my playlist,” said Forest. “There’s always been that one song that keeps your day going. You know, having a hard day at work, having a hard day at school — it just keeps you going through that day. And if this song helps out just a few people in Alaska, that’s a dream come true.”
Another dream of theirs is to make music professionally. At school, Cameron majors in kinesiology and human movement, while Forest is looking to study business, but they’ve heard from people interested in using the song as part of suicide prevention programs. And someday, they hope to perform at schools and speak with students around Alaska, sharing their positive message through songs like “P.L.P.”
Whatever their futures may hold, the duo said they’ll return to Alaska after graduating, and they’ll continue making music to support their home state.
To listen to “P.L.P” and hear more music by AK’s Finest, visit their SoundCloud page.