“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.
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.
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.
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.