War-affected refugee cum Winnipeg Hip Hop prodigy, Samuel Mijok Lang, a.k.a. Hot Dogg is rapping his way into the hearts and ear-phones of North Americans. Hot Dogg is a “Lost Boy”, a name borrowed by the UNHCR in reference to the forest dwelling orphans in Disney’s Peter Pan; it was an apt title for the 33,000 child refugees who made the 16 hundred kilometer journey out of southern Sudan. Little Hot Dogg was among the children aged between 4 and 9 that walked single file across the grassy plains of an unforgiving African landscape towards Ethiopia.
The journey to Ethiopia took four months and thousands of boys perished along the way from starvation, dehydration, disease, attacks by Arab militias and wild animals, and bombing raids. Twenty-six thousand of the child survivors reached Ethiopia, but refugee life was not easy, as Hot Dogg describes, “It was like a death camp, with hunger and disease everywhere you looked.”
After only a year in Ethiopia the children were forced to flee again when rebel forces toppled the government, a little over half of the Lost Boys made it to safety. For the next ten years, the dusty, dilapidated camp in Kenya was home to the Lost Boys until the UNHCR finally resettled them to Canada, the United States and Australia. Around two hundred Lost Boys came to Winnipeg.
Hot Dogg came to Canada in 2004 and enrolled in high school. After graduation he went for his first job interview; he showed up without a resume and when the company owner asked him what his skills were he cheerfully replied that he could swim and do a back flip. But Hot Dogg is charming, and exudes pure goodness…so of course he got the job. Hot Dogg loves Canada but it’s an everyday struggle for him just to get by. He and his Lost Boys face daily challenges of a system that is not designed for them; like being turned down for tuition bursaries for not having death certificates for their parents.
Hot Dogg turned to rap after God appeared to him in a dream and told him that he would spread his message through music and that he would meet his mentor the following day. The next day he was passing through Central Park and there was a rap performance. At the end of the concert Grammy Award winning rapper Fresh IE pulled him from the audience and offered to take him under his wing and teach him to rap. Since then Hot Dogg has performed alongside such North American heavy weights as K’naan, Pip Skid, Fresh IE and has performed at the Canadian Landmines Conference, the Harvest Moon Festival and has made several appearances on national television and satellite radio shows.
When I asked Hot Dogg what his message was he explained that he survived to tell the story of the Lost Boys to the world, saying “We don’t need any more Lost Boys coming from Sudan.” Hot Dogg is driven by the images of his people suffering. One night, when he was only four years old, his village was attacked and he and his family were captured by the militia, Hot Dogg was forced to watch as armed men took turns indulging their viciousness and performed mutilations - too horrific to describe - on his aunt and uncle.
Samuel Mijok Lang, a.k.a. Hot Dogg – a name the Lost Boys gave him because that’s all he ate his first year in Canada – is a survivor. His faith in God reflects his faith in the innate goodness of people. In spite of everything he’s been through, he believes that if Canadians knew what the Lost Boys went through; what the people of Darfur are presently going through, they would unite to stop it.