Whitehorse rap duo conquers eastern Canada (in a minivan)

Nick Johnson and Yudii Mercredi are sitting side-by-side and finishing each other's sentences. "There we go, Slick, let's blow this out of proportion," raps Mercredi.

Nick Johnson and Yudii Mercredi are sitting side-by-side and finishing each other’s sentences.

“There we go, Slick, let’s blow this out of proportion,” raps Mercredi.

“Born with an attitude to make a good performance,” Johnson responds.

They pass the lines back and forth:

“More clever than we’ve ever been/Better than you’ve ever seen/Vision Quest, we ain’t a dream/There couldn’t be a better team.”

It’s a seamless display of teamwork from the Whitehorse hip-hop duo. And this isn’t just how Vision Quest performs – the two talk this way, too, adding to each other’s thoughts, the thread of conversation moving quickly from one to the other.

Their teamwork has grown since they performed together for the first time at a battle of the bands organized by BYTE in 2013, and won.

And they’ve grown closer, in all likelihood, since they spent three weeks in July crammed into a Toyota Sienna minivan with four other people, on their first tour through eastern Canada.

The duo performed with aboriginal artists Winnipeg Boyz and Joey Stylez in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, and Thunder Bay. They also visited four aboriginal communities, including Kahnawake, Que. and Elsipogtog, N.B.

“I don’t know if I’d ever get to see all the places we saw if it wasn’t for this tour and meeting these guys and doing our music thing, you know?” said Johnson. Both he and Mercredi were born in Whitehorse, and had spent little time out east before the tour.

The trip wasn’t always a smooth ride – the performers would often play a show, finish in the wee hours of the morning, pack everything into the van and drive all night and day to get to their next venue in time. Then there was the time they drove out to Obedjiwan, Que. – a three-hour drive along a wet, dirt road that Mercredi compared to the Dempster Highway – only to find there was nowhere for them to stay when they arrived. But it didn’t stop them from performing.

“You’re always going to run into unexpected events,” said Johnson. “It’s just rolling with the punches, constantly. You just go with it.”

As much as anything else, this was a chance for the pair to learn the tricks of a highly competitive trade. For all their attitude during performances, they’re endearingly sincere, a quality that may not serve them well in a genre of music so driven by ego.

They rap about teamwork and hockey, and about what it’s like to live in the Yukon (“You make it rain/Well, we make it snow”).

Mercredi said the other artists on the tour told them they have to use more street lingo, “to open our mind, to kind of expand our lyrics in a way.”

And there’s the business of it, too, “the hustle,” Johnson called it.

“You gotta just get out there and do it,” he said. “You gotta make calls, you gotta set up shows. I learned a lot about setting up shows and anchor points and what you should charge, how much you should take from the door, a level of professionalism that you have to maintain, and to always be prepared for anything, really.”

It’s a lot to think about for two performers who are still figuring out exactly who they want to be. Johnson, 26, is thoughtful, the more serious of the two. He remembers asking his teacher if he could play mix tapes for his class at lunchtime when he was in Grade 4. He started freestyling at friends’ parties in high school, which is how he met Mercredi.

Mercredi, 23, is louder, more boisterous. He acted as a child, which he says helped him get comfortable in the spotlight. When he performs with Johnson, he’s the one who does back flips off the stage.

Both of them know they need to be unique if they’re going to survive.

“Everyone can be a rapper, like an independent artist, really,” said Johnson. “So you gotta be different, you gotta be hungry, and you gotta push yourself.”

Their plan is to focus on dance hip-hop, to get people moving. Johnson said he wants to have “one of the best live shows that you’ll see.”

“You could have the best lyrics in the world, but if you’re just standing there, rapping them, with no feeling and whatnot, it kind of takes out of what the artist does,” said Mercredi.

They also spend a lot of time thinking about how they see themselves as First Nation artists. Johnson is from the Kluane First Nation, and Mercredi is Vuntut Gwitchin.

They say their work is heavily influenced by their culture. And some of their best memories of the tour come from their performances on reserves, where the whole community would come out to see them.

But they’re both hesitant to label themselves aboriginal performers.

“They always put that in front of you, right?” said Johnson. “When you should be just an artist, first and foremost. And have respect for your heritage. As a music artist, I don’t really want to be classified as anything. I just want to be an artist that is First Nation. Not necessarily… a First Nation aboriginal artist.”

Vision Quest hopes to embark on a tour of western Canada this fall. In the meantime, they’re busy writing new music, with plans to put out a full album sometime this year.

For the moment, they have an EP for sale that can be ordered by contacting them through their Facebook page.

Contact Maura Forrest at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

During our recent conversation, John Nicholson showed me snapshots of his time working on the Yukon riverboats 70 years ago. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: Yukon man relives the riverboat days after seven decades

John Nicholson took summer work on Yukon steamers in the 1950s

A cyclist rides along the Millenium Trail in downtown Whitehorse on a frigid Feb. 9. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of an e-bike bylaw that would designate how e-bike riders can use city trails. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
First two readings passed on Whitehorse e-bike bylaw

Delegate calls on city to consider age restrictions and further regulations

Whitehorse City Hall at its Steele Street entrance. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Change of plans approved for city hall

Project would see 1966 city hall demolished

A city map shows the property at 107 Range Road. The zoning is now in place for developers to proceed with plans for a Dairy Queen drive-thru. If plans proceed on schedule the new restaurant is anticipated to open in October. (Cyrstal Schick/Yukon News)
October opening eyed for Dairy Queen

Will depend on everything going according to plan

NDP candidate Annie Blake, left, and Liberal incumbent Pauline Frost. (Submitted photos)
Official recount confirms tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin riding

Both candidates Pauline Frost and Annie Blake are still standing with 78 votes each

Joel Krahn/joelkran.com Hikers traverse the Chilkoot Trail in September 2015. Alaska side.
The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer

The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer Parks… Continue reading

A bulldozer levels piles of garbage at the Whitehorse landfill in January 2012. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Rural dump closures and tipping fees raise concern from small communities

The government has said the measures are a cost-cutting necessity

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: Hands of Hope, the quilt of poppies

Toilets are important Ed. note: Hands of Hope is a Whitehorse-based non-profit… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at city council matters for the week of April 12

École Whitehorse Elementary Grade 7 students Yumi Traynor and Oscar Wolosewich participated in the Civix Student Vote in Whitehorse on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Yukon Student Vote chooses Yukon Party government; NDP take popular vote

The initiative is organized by national non-profit CIVIX

Yvonne Clarke is the newly elected Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek Centre. (Submitted/Yukon Party)
Yvonne Clarke elected as first Filipina MLA in the Yukon Legislative Assembly

Clarke beat incumbent Liberal Paolo Gallina in Porter Creek Centre

Emily Tredger at NDP election night headquarters after winning the Whitehorse Centre riding. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Emily Tredger takes Whitehorse Centre for NDP

MLA-elect ready to get to work in new role

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Two new cases of COVID-19 variant identified in territory

“If variants were to get out of control in the Yukon, the impact could be serious.”

Most Read