Talks unique melodies, faith and inspiring the youth.

Interview: Johnson Gold // @Johnson_gold
Styling: Jen Eleto // @Jenelectro
Photographer: o5ive/ @o5ive
Featuring: Rema// @heisrema
Special Thanks to:

“I never see anything as negativity. I keep it pure and focused.”

Leading the next generation of Nigerian artists, Rema is the rap sensation that’s fusing trap sounds with Afrobeats to create a new wave of music that’s resonating all over Africa and the world. From singing in churches to one day randomly dropping a freestyle that would lead to his now success, his journey is one of faith, consistency and hard work. With a maturity that stems way beyond his years, it’s easy to see how the 19-year-old’s confidence, style and eccentric melodies have taken him from Benin City to international charts and the playlist of none of than President Obama. PAUSE caught up with Rema – here’s what went down.

Leather Shirt: KOZHA, Pants: Needles @ Mr Porter, Shoes: Dr. Martens x Raf Simons

This summer you sparked! Your new wave sound burst into the scene, where are you orginally from?

I’m from Benin City.

Is that where you grew up?

Yeah, that’s where I grew up. It’s a small city in Nigeria.

How did you start your music journey? Especially being so young, you’re only 19.

I was originally inspired by Gospel songs, started performing in church, then started a live band in school, we used to go competitions and stuff like that, but it all started in church. I joined the choir, we were always rehearsing and I was getting to know more about music and vibing to instrumentals. I basically listen to a lot of sounds, like I don’t have musical roots from my mum and dad but the songs they used to play around me influenced me and inspired me to do what I do now. It’s been a great journey.

Leather Jacket: KOZHA,  Demin Pants: 3.paradis Shoes: Artist’s Own

So growing up, what age did you start rapping, singing and playing with sounds?

I’ve been listening to sounds all my life, but where it started officially was when I was 11. When I was 7, I used to draw, so I started drawing and singing trying to find out which one would click, but when I made the full decision to do music was when I was 11, and at that time I used to rap. I was not that good, but I rapped. That was 2011, and I just rapped, after all the journey, school, church and hustling around Benin City, studio to studio looking for a free session because I didn’t have money to sponsor myself but I was looking for any opportunity to sponsor myself and get money so I could go to the studio.

So at that time I was just rapping, I didn’t start singing until 2015. A lot of people say I sing so good, but I just started like 3, 4 years ago, and that’s when I started infusing melodies in my rap, because everyone was rapping like these OG’s. In Benin City, everyone sounded similar, and I wanted to distinguish myself from them so I started infusing melodies like Drake, and actually distinguishing myself from a lot of people in the church, in school and in the whole city. The young generation in the city knew of me because I was everywhere, at all the auditions and all those things.

Outfit: MAINS London

You’ve created your own sound as an African artist, I wouldn’t bracket you as an Afrobeats artist and I know you would agree as well. What inspired your choice of sound? 

You know what, in this whole journey I just feel like I was called to do something great. If I want to do something great, I’m suppose to start something that differentiates the different genres and the whole sounds in Nigeria actually. If I want to start something great, I can’t add to what’s already there, I have to bring something fresh, you get? I will get a lot of backlash. I knew I would get a lot of comments saying “Yo, you sound Idian, you sound this, you sound that.” Yes, it’s the sacrifices I need to take. If I don’t go through all this, there wouldn’t be any new sound. There wouldn’t be any concrete statement. What inspired me was just god, I felt like I was born to build my own legacy, not add to someone else’s legacy. Everybody is adding to Fela’s legacy, which is great, I still respect that and still add to that. His beats, patterns and Fela’s wave. But my melodies, my sounds, my vibe, it’s the type of music you don’t even need much lyrics, but you make impact. Its powerful. Dumebi is just 30% lyrics, 70% vibes. The words don’t actually mean anything, but to the soul it does.

So the words don’t actually mean anything at all?

No, it’s all playful. I still write them down and all that but, call it speaking in tongues, or call it whatever you want to call, but this is my vibe. I’m creating a language that’s just a whole move. I know that even though I’m the only person doing it, I believe that in 2 years time or 3 years time, I’ll have an army of people doing this same sound. With confidence, if you don’t back the sound with the confidence you can’t make any statements, so I just bring that vibe. That’s why a lot of people are angry because they’re saying ‘Why does something that doesn’t make sense, make sense?’

It’s because it’s new to them, you’ve come into the game, and you’ve brought something new, and they just don’t understand it. So they’re like ‘Why is he doing this?’ But that’s also a good thing.

Yeah, I never see anything as negativity. I keep it pure and focused.

But you have a lot of Indian influences injected into your music, where does that stem from?

I’m not Indian, I don’t watch Indian movies, I don’t listen to a lot of Indian songs, but I just listen to a lot of genres, and visit playlists. I listen to a lot of Latin music and a lot of stuff. I just have my fun. Music is global, people feel boxed because you’re Nigerian you need to just listen to English songs, American songs or Afrobeat songs, but no, music is a global thing and a universal language so why not listen to all types of music. Apart from that, God infused some melodies in my mind and I can’t even explain how they get to my mind.

At a young age, you’re pretty much worldwide right now. How are you coping with adapting to a new lifestyle?

I just miss taking a walk, I miss going to the Game shop and getting new video games or hanging out with my friends. Because everyone around me right now is really mature and it’s all about strategising about my future, but sometimes I just miss talking to my young guys and hanging out, having fun, talking about girls. That doesn’t happen anymore, now I’m really matured more than my age.

Do you feel like your career has matured you really fast?

Yeah, but it’s like. With responsibilities and everything.

Outfit: MAINS London, Shoes: UGG x Heron Preston

You’re now representing for the younger generation, just like you.

Yeah, it’s like I’m building an army. I just really want to motivate, not just the people around the world, but the people in my city because, for a long time, we lost hope. Because there was no one coming up in our city making sense, there was nobody coming up in our city that was winning awards, and there was nobody really recognised, even within Nigeria, out that city. But look at me, not just recognised around Nigeria, but around Africa and around the world.

In my heart, I feel they are proud of me, I don’t expect any hate from them but let’s see. I’m doing this for me, I’m doing this for my family, I’m doing this for my people and the young generation, and I just believe in years to come when my pictures on the wall, the young guys can point to the picture and say ‘he inspired me.’ I have a lot of big dreams and a lot of faith in God, I’m called for something great and this is just the beginning.

Vest: KOZHA, Shirt: Studio Alch, Track Pants: MAINS London

How did you feel when President Obama included you in his top music list?

That was big. I could express my excitement. I just showed how my music travelled so fast within just months of me being in the game. But it also opened doors and went to different places. And I’m just glad it wasn’t Dumebi, the song that everyone was going crazy about, it was just a specific weird sound, so for Obama to sit down and listen to that and then add it onto his playlist, that’s big. Especially because I got a lot of backlash for that song, people saying ‘are you sure you’re Nigerian?’ ‘It sounds like he sings through his nose’ and stuff like that, but Obama likes it though.

Your an outsider, people are still adapting to your new wave. So you’re teaching them.

Some people think I’m too young to teach them. [laughs]

What fashion brands are currently wearing at the moment? 

I wear a lot of Nike, Jordans and stuff like that. I like easy wears, I like streetwear, things like PLACES + FACES. I don’t want to put the young people on under pressure, like the older generation with their chains and stuff like that, it’s cool for the brand but a lot of young people look up to me, that’s why I don’t post about the cars, I don’t post about those things. The only they see me is my shows or me recording. When a 5 second clip of me dancing leaks, people get engaged because my sound is a mystery and my personality is a mystery, so they get engaged straight away, I don’t want to start showing them stuff like ‘I’m 19 and look at what I have’ because they’re 19 too, so I keep it clean and straight. I respect everybody and mind my business.

Jacket: KOZHA, T-Shirt: MAINS London, Trousers: 3 Paradis

What music artists influence you?

I like Daft Punk, Kanye West, Kid Cudi. Kid Cudi, I love what he infuses. He just hums and it’s spiritual, he gave me the sense of what melodies can do. I also like Muse band, because of their alternative notes and stuff like that. A lot more, I don’t know a lot of Latin singers but I just go and randomly, close my eyes and listen. I don’t know their names because I don’t want to stick to one person. If I start knowing their names, I’ll start searching about them, and sounding more like them, so why not just listen to everybody. I listen to 2Face, Don Jazzy, Davido, a mixture of everybody. Just add a little bit from a thousand people.

And describe yourself, and your sound in one word.


Describe African artists in 2020.

New revelations.

Keep up with REMA on Instagram

Catch Rema @ Afro Nation GHANA 2019 here

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • X wrld says:

    Am inspired

  • Abdulrahman says:

    I love you very much you only musicians stolen my heart

  • Mo tion says:

    Rema i love you man you motivated me and inspire me am also young you made me belive that dispite the fact am young i can still make a difference seeing you iss like seeing myself hearing your sounds just give me faith like if he can do it i can do it to just like you i want to create a new genre just like you i call it AFRO/TRAP/RAP it a mix of trap rap and trap it so similar to what you so when i hear your sound in just have joy in my heart rema you are my joy giver i find myself doing covers of most of your songs like dumebi, lady and badcommando if you ever see this just know i love you bro my love is greater than their hate ( IG @rg_motion) am your biggest fan

  • Tomiwa Andrew says:

    Wow rema is truly from a place of greatness. His story is inspiring and he commands his target audience.

    This conversation was a great read.

  • Bashol says:

    Rema. I love you. Keep inspiring us

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