“Travel is about connecting... connecting with the world, connecting with people and connecting with the energy in new societies.”
We linked up with Rema, the rising star of Nigeria’s music scene and self-styled ‘baby dragon’. Having only released 2 EP’s he’s already being hailed as the next big thing, with his first EP “Iron Man” peaking at number 1 on Apple Music in Nigeria and winning him fans around the world. Even Barack Obama chose the tune for his 2019 summer playlist. His latest EP “Bad Commando” is an emotional blend of afropop, trap and rap that transcends any one genre.
We take an hour out of his busy schedule to chat travel, his home in Nigeria and spirituality. Proud of his African heritage and its influence on his music, Rema “wants to take afrobeats to the whole world”, sharing ideas, culture and spirituality through his musical output. He takes his position as a creative role model seriously and admits that a lot of young people where he’s from need to work on their confidence to achieve their goals.
Moving to Lagos in 2018 to sign with Mavin records and make music he describes the capital as “the city of hustle. Everyone is moving, everyone has a dream, a goal to achieve. Lagos is also a place to party…”
Confidence is something ingrained in the Nigerian energy and Rema has it in spades. He seems mature beyond his 19 years. But his musical journey started long before he moved to Lagos.
Rema was born in Benin City, in Edo State. Nicknamed the ‘Heart Beat of Nigeria’, Benin is far less populous than Lagos and has a distinct culture. The city has shaped him in many ways. Smiling, he tells us the vibe of his hometown is “just about having fun, playing video games and trying to find the new guys in the hood to influence with music.”
Proud of his Benin, he boasts that “my mum’s a really good cook. She makes owo, you eat it with plantain or yam, it’s a Benin delicacy and it’s amazing” and recommends a visit to Mama Ebo Pepper Rice, located on the airport road.
Crediting the culture and spirituality of Nigeria as an inspiration for his music. He says “Whenever I make music I’m always emotional. I tend to create my vibe through spirituality, emotion and energy. It has a taste of happy and sad feelings. The same way I mix different genres together I also want to mix emotions together and deliver it all in one sound so when it goes out it triggers different emotions in the heart and the mind. It’s really spiritual and hard to explain.”
Rema’s skilful blend of genres is what makes his sound so special and means he appeals to so many. He refuses to be defined by any one genre and it’s this that sets him apart from the competition. “My music is not ordinary, it’s obvious. When I’m in the studio, the whole vibe changes, I feel something come over me when I’m recording.”
He is his own man, a man inspired by the culture of his hometown and the musical influences that surround him in Lagos. When we offer him a choice of balaclava at the end of the shoot he knows exactly which one he wants (diamontes embroidered into the fabric custom made by Erin Alexis) and tells us that his trademark balaclava is his most essential item for travel.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m just a kid trying to share a new sound with the whole world. I’m just a kid trying to create a new vibe, i just want to be different and I just want to motivate the youths.
Do you feel like a role model for young people in your country and around the world?
Yes, to those who want me to influence them, yes.
Do you feel like there’s a need for there to be more creative role models where you’re from?
Yeah because a lot of young people really need to work on their confidence. I feel like I’m not the only person with the ability to create a new vibe or a new sound inspired by afrobeats. A lot of people feel shy because they think they’ll get laughed at... And you know, sometimes I make some funny melodies, I know they’re funny but I know it’s just my vibe and when i back it up with confidence it’s a whole energy.
You’ve spoken in the past about your spirituality and how that inspires you. Do you feel like that will always have a role in your music going forward?
Yes! When I’m in the studio, the whole mood changes, the whole vibe changes. I feel something come over me when I’m recording. Every single time I finish a project and i listen I get surprised, I’m like did i do this shit, did this happen…
What is your craziest travel story?
Agbo. They were sent to pick us up from the airport but they were driving really rough, everyone was scared, it was crazy.
There’s a certain flamboyance and hustle in the culture out there, how would you describe your actual local scene with you and your friends out in Lagos?
With my friends in Lagos it’s more about the music, it’s more about creating stuff for the future. Whenever we create, whenever we share ideas, whenever we hang out it’s about the music and taking Afrobeats or Africa to the whole world. We just wanna push the sound, we’re more about how we can share ideas in inspiring youths and everybody else…