- Words Cal McIntyre
We catch up with Afropop superstar, Rema, who is announced as Apple Music's Up Next Artist as he continuously climbs to greater heights.
To say someone is the voice of a generation is a great statement that shouldn’t be thrown around carelessly. However, when it comes to Rema, he is both the sound and the voice of the youth of tomorrow as he trailblazes his own pathway into a better future.
The 20-year-old boy wonder is crafting the Nigerian pop sound into something that can only be described as ‘Rema’. What’s so refreshing about Rema is the humility he exudes along with sheer gratitude. On our Zoom call, he sits politely in the studio where he is cooking up his next creations and it doesn’t feel like we are sitting down to interview the newly crowned prince of pop who is rapidly taking over the world with his idiosyncratic and youthful sound.
In March of last year, Rema released his debut self-titled EP on Mavin, which has gained support from polished Afropop stars like Tiwa Savage and Reekado Banks and since then, he has evolved and grown into the man and artist he is becoming today. For certain, he is crafting the Afropop sound that is rightfully taking over the world and has always been an inspiration to the musical world we live in.
Hailing from Nigeria’s Benin City, originally known as Edo, Rema is a personification of the landscape he has grown up in and lets it shine through in his work. In just over a year, the trajectory that Rema is on is hard to compare to, it’s like a supernova, as his take on west Africa’s popular dance music has launched him into the global stratosphere. So, how did it all get started for Rema?
Crediting his parents for introducing him to a plethora of musical references at a young age such as Fela Kuti, Rema began writing his own raps and flows at the age of seven in school. It’s pretty evident that he has been perfecting his talents from some time now as he weavers and flows effortlessly throughout his bars that make it seem like it pours out of him naturally.
The pillars of Rema’s distinct sound can be rooted in his faith – often referring to ‘grace’ throughout his creative process, it keeps him anchored down on Earth, remaining entirely humble and pleasant. On our Zoom call, you can just feel how grateful and happy Rema is to be doing what his calling is.
We caught up with the enigmatic Rema below to dissect how is he doing in lockdown in a world that is rapidly changing, how it feels to be Apple’s Up Next Artist and what it means to him to be the voice of the youth.
When it comes to the sound he is pioneering and creating, Rema tells me, “I see my music as a universal language. It can reach everybody, no matter where they come from or how they look.” And he’s definitely not wrong – the impact Rema is having in the music industry is a global wave starting from Nigeria. “Sometimes, it’s not about what I’m saying”, Rema begins, “sometimes it’s just about vibing to music and I think that’s what a lot of people who may not understand my music do.” Referring to the energy that is embedded within his music, it’s undoubtedly addictive… sometimes a great track is one you can simply get lost in and just feel the energy reverberating from the airwaves. Luckily for us, Rema has tracks that can do it all.
When it comes to how Rema is doing, handling mass amounts fame at a young age whilst a pandemic sweeps across the world can be a lot. “I’m feeling good and positive”, Rema begins, “I’m in the studio focusing my energy into my music and putting out positive vibes.” It’s refreshing to hear, and like his music, his positive attitude rubs off onto the listener also.
Starting Rema as a “character in school”, Rema soon found himself in church practising both his character and his real-life persona in the sacred space after joining a choir but practising his lyricism at home. “There was a lot of rappers,” Rema tells me, “so I had to find my own style and put my stance in the ground, which helped me find my own way.” It’s clear Rema found his own way as he continues to trailblaze his own path for people to eventually follow in his footsteps.
Announced as Apple Music’s Up Next Artist, Apple Music’s monthly artist initiative geared towards identifying, showcasing and elevating rising talent, Rema tells me “it’s a huge deal”. “I want to take Afrobeats to the world and now the world is listening, it’s an honour. This has come during a time when across the world people are uniting and coming together to fight for justice. This generation, my generation, are standing up and speaking out and it’s amazing to see, I am standing right beside them.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves – whether you want to dive deep into Rema’s music or simply vibe to it, there’ definitely something for everyone. With difficult times taking over the world, music will always be a healing power and tool in spreading positivity and unity, and it couldn’t be more fitting that Rema is Apple Music’s Up Next Artist as that’s what he does best.