- 19 Dec 18
From planning a ‘70s horror movie set in Dublin to painting ‘love letters’ to people and places on his debut album Dear Annie, Rejjie Snow has created a unique visual and musical aesthetic. Rightly taking his place as hip-hop artist of the year, he reflects on the last 12 months with Peter McGoran.
Rejjie Snow has had quite a 2018. At the start of the year, expectations were high for the artist, following the release of his hotly-awaited debut LP Dear Annie. The album duly solidified his place in the higher echelons of rap, internationally as well as locally. Since then, the Drumcondra-born artist has played rapturously received shows throughout Europe, Australia and the US.
“I just did America in the last few months,” says Rejjie, talking from his London home. “Most of it was sold out and that was a pretty good feeling – it was super-special. I played a show in San Francisco, and I remember the venue from going there as a kid. So to play there… it cemented a lot of things. It got rid of all these doubts I had. I thought, ‘Yeah, I’m a professional. I’m a musician now.’”
Snow took almost complete creative control of Dear Annie. He teamed up with the people he’d always wanted to work with, including Kendrick Lamar producer Rahki and Kaytranada, and unabashedly leant towards personal subject matter in the lyrics. It’s a refreshingly vulnerable take on hip-hop.
“Opening up has become more important to me recently,” explains Rejjie. “Having a younger fanbase, I feel a responsibility with my music. Being vulnerable is something that happened naturally, with the age I am now and the stuff I’m experiencing in life – that transition between being a teenager and becoming a man. These are all things I don’t want to shy away from in the music, because it’s a very relatable point that I can express. Plus, it goes hand-in-hand with genuinely just wanting to be real for myself.”
Maybe it’s the cultural moment we’re living in, but male vulnerability seems to have been a theme in Irish hip-hop this year, with artists like Kojaque also tackling the issue. Would Rejjie keep his ear to the ground with music back home?
“I pay as much attention as I can,” he says. “Obviously I’m not living there, and once I moved from Dublin when I was 17, I completely – by mistake – disconnected from a lot of things. That just happens. But I’ve got the same mates that I grew up with and they keep me informed, so I try my best.
“It’s been great to see a lot of Irish artists getting more recognition outside of Ireland. That’s really sick and it shows the way the scene’s evolved. I’m proud of everyone for that, because it’s not easy. People from the outside want to pigeonhole certain Irish acts, but I think now it’s opened up a bit more. And that’s a credit to everybody in that scene. Everybody’s helping each other out.”
Rejjie also cites Blindboy Boatclub as a homegrown figure he’s looked up to.
“He’s shown love towards my music from early on,” he admits. “I didn’t really look too much into what he did and the message he had in his art until recently. Now I’ve been listening to his podcast and I honestly think, with someone like him, he’s important to the Irish art scene.”
Over a year on from its release, Rejjie’s moved on from much of the buzz generated by Dear Annie. Still, it must be very gratifying seeing the likes of Jaden Smith (son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith) and UK grime artist Skepta tweeting their appreciation for his music.
“It is,” he smiles. “It gives me more motivation to keep making stuff and keep getting bigger, because I feel like I’ve come on in leaps and bounds. But there’s still so much for me to do and achieve. Obviously when people like that hit me up, it’s a certain confirmation that – yes, what I’m doing is working. At the time it, it makes me think there’s still so much more I can do.”
Despite the acclaim, he still feels like the biggest endorsements come from those back home.
“I got word from Trinity College recently,” notes Rejjie. “They want me to go in and accept an award, which is so cool. I love that – stuff coming from home. I mean, I know my sound isn’t the most ‘Irish’ or whatever, but I always want to take things back home; for home to be the main influence and for people to understand what I’m doing and respect it. Once I’ve got that, I’ll be a happier person with my work.”
He’s gaining plentiful plaudits for his music, but Rejjie also deserves credit for his gifts as a visual artist. His videos for singles like ‘Egyptian Luvr’ and ‘Charlie Brown’ show a real flair for memorable imagery. The last time we spoke, he floated the idea of making a horror movie set in 1970s Dublin with a mixed cast. Is that still in the works?
“Yeah, I actually finished that,” he laughs. “It’s very rough, but I pitched it to RTÉ and I’m trying to get it pitched to other people. I haven’t heard back but I’m gonna keep pitching it. I mean, I was back home recently and I was watching the TV and a lot of it was just so shit. Compared at least to the stuff that they’re doing on BBC and other channels, I feel like some Irish channels are living in the stone age.”
If Snow’s other artistic pursuits are anything to go by, this is a movie that almost certainly needs to be made. Aside from waiting for RTÉ to pull the finger out, what other plans does he have for 2019?
“Lots of surprises,” he replies. “I’ve got stuff that’s ready for release. But I want to take a different approach, and not put as much emphasis on the build-up to records. Just give people what they need. I think I’ve gotten rid of all the insecurities I had with my music. All those doubts I had, I don’t have them anymore. I’m a lot more confident now. All I’ve ever wanted was a fanbase of people who wanted to listen to the music I put out. I feel like I’ve got that now, so I’m just gonna use it and keep trying to make great stuff.”