On Monday, March 29, 2019, Nigerian singer and rave of the moment, Rema released his debut project, the 4-track ‘Rema EP.’
The project took a few days to truly resonate, but songs like ‘Iron Man,’ and ‘Why‘ are now making the rounds as either sleeper hits or fan-favourite while ‘Dumebi’ is a certified hit – even Pulse Senior Editor and music critic, Ayomide Tayo agreed a few weeks ago.
Before that project, Rema was an internet sensation who liked hopping on beats, and freestyling his way to ridiculous melodies. He would deliver in his signature shotgun (passenger’s front seat) style while working his hand between folds and gestures and delivering into the camera.
In fact, as Don Jazzy told Loose Talk Podcast, the 18-year-old was discovered by D’Prince after he freestyled over the beat to ‘Gucci Gang.’ This led to his Jonzing/Mavin signing after D’Prince flew to Benin to convince his parents.
On June 19, 2019, Jonzing/Mavin released a compilation of his best freestyle sessions as one EP titled, Rema Freestyle EP and here are seven talking points from the EP;
1. While he is a natural, Rema is an attentive student of music
On my first listen to Rema EP, I was not impressed by ‘Iron Man.‘ But by the time I got to ‘Why,’ I knew Rema had talent. It was not about that genre – a scarce commodity region, it was his brilliant execution of the song that overshadowed its weaknesses.
I wrote, “When ‘Why’ comes on with a typical generation z/Soundcloud generation music; trap-infused emo/cloud music from the staple of XXXTentacion, Lil Peep, Paris, Juice WRLD, but more like Makonnen, I get blown away because I did not see it coming.
“It showcases an artist with adaptable talent, recognized by the team behind him that he could make much more than basic dance music. Although, ‘Why’ tells another generic love story, this shortcoming is less noticeable that it was on ‘Iron Man.'”
On Rema Freestyle EP, a smoother experience to his freestyle sessions, he embodies the times that birthed him in sound, flow, cadence and delivery. Asides the obvious natural talent Rema possesses to effortlessly recreate his version of what he consumes, there is significant evidence that he consumes a lot of music.
Talent might get you somewhere, but there is almost no way he delivers a song like ‘Trap In The Submarine’ without have even a little obsession with consuming music.
2. By contemporary standards, Rema is a rapper
Times have changed and the term ‘rapper’ has gotten flexible with time and natural evolution.
Classification of music has gotten harder. With how certain brands of music – though sung – are delivered with an embodiment of the tenets of rap, it is difficult to call them R&B.
Pale imitations of Future have changed the game and Hip-Hop has now become more inclusive. Subgenres like SoundCloud rap, emo rap and cloud rap are now a thing. These subgenres are the offsprings of trap music, R&B and psychedelic rap – championed by Kid Cudi.
Acts like Juice WRLD, Fetty Wap, Desiigner, Lil Peep, Paris, Octavian, Trippie Redd, IloveMakonnen and a host of others are called ‘rapper.’ With songs like ‘Why‘ and those on Rema Freestyle EP, Rema is also a rapper.
3. This is the project that some people wanted
As people digested the familiar, yet new EP on the morning of June 20, 2019, Dayo tells Pulse that, “After listening to ‘Why’ on Rema EP, this is the project a lot of people I have talked to wanted. The kind that is experimental and allows Rema to explore this side of his artistry.”
He is right. A lot of hoped Rema would explore this side of himself and he has done it strategically. Mavin rebranded – his freeststyles – what people already knew and gave it to them to gauge reception. Commendable strategy.
4. Production and Delivery
This sound on this project borrows from trap music (percussion), soft rock (with the guitars and strings), pop (with the strings) and Hip-Hop for an alternative outlook.
The project is then SoundCloud Rap, Trap&B, Emo Rap, Trap, lo-fi Trap and Alternative R&B. With its infectious melodies, production is incredibly psychedelic
Topically, Rema’s freestyles are impressively substantiated – not bland. He has lines that can be followed – albeit incoherent substance.
5. Best song, worst song and likely single
For a combination of excellence of production, lyrical content and enjoyability, the best song on this project is ‘Trap Out The Submarine’ while the least good song is ‘Spiderman.’
‘Boulevard’ seems like the single though.
6. The mixing is bad
The mixing on this project is bad and it stole the shine off some great beats on this project.
Now, I might be wrong, but it sometimes felt like Rema never re-recorded his freestyle sessions and they were simply lifted, deftly tweaked and mixed to retain their raw feel.
If I’m right, that will be a masterstroke and a credit to the mixers that the songs sound this good. Be that as it may, they were put on a body of work and the mixing is bad.
However, my theory might be wrong.
7. Additional Thoughts
From now on, Rema’s stage performances will be interesting to watch – especially those ones before an audience of younger millennials and his fellow generation zers.
When he is ready, he will be one of Nigeria’s – if not the – most attractive, commercially viable act(s) to the western market.
He will be more attractive than Wizkid and Davido to western acts and tastemakers. He has the required contemporary versatility and his style is more adaptive. On beats with no ‘afro’ inclinations, most of Nigeria’s premier talent except Burna Boy and Wande Coal struggle.
Rema has an expansive sonic cadence that will allow him to slalom effortlessly between different styles, genres and beat counts.
Even better, he is still young, raw and largely malformed. He will only get better and more experimental. This means his sonic suitability will only increase.
I know the inevitable shouts of ‘He is still new, Wizkid/Davido are legends‘ and ‘Don’t pile pressure‘ will start, but talent is obvious. This is not hype. If he is not conditioned and he is allowed to grow naturally – a program Mavin is already following – he will blossom incredibly and my ‘hype’ will become an understatement.
In fact, one might argue that the organic nature of the four songs on Rema Freestyle EP is a deft strategy by Mavin/Jonzing to make him test the obvious Emo/SoundCloud rap, Trap&B and alternative R&B side of him.
The length of those songs reminds one of XXXTentacion‘s ‘small chops’ music. For now, it will be nice to see Rema go in on a freestyle session.