Exclusive Interview: Rejjie Snow – “All I’m really concerned about is connecting with fans.”
We caught up with Dublin's Rejjie Snow in the middle of his sold out tour to discuss navigating the music industry and connecting with fans...
To call Rejjie Snow a misfit, is an understatement.
A role model for staying true to yourself, even if that means going well against the grain and following your passion while those around you still can’t see the vision; Alex Anyaegbunam’s story is unlike any other.
Born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, he relocated to Florida in high school where he’d been given a football scholarship at Montverde Academy. Upon graduating he’d attend a semester at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, before dropping out and returning to his home soil where he’d put his focus on a career in music.
Since then he’s worked with the likes of Kaytranada, Lily Rose Depp and Joey Bada$$, his debut Rejovich EP gave Kanye West and J. Cole a run for their money on the iTunes charts in 2013, he’s modelled for French Connection and supported Madonna on tour.
He’s currently signed to 300 Entertainment (where labelmates include Young Thug, Fetty Wap and Migos) and resides in Brooklyn, New York City: or at least he does when he’s not out in L.A. working on his debut album Dear Annie with DJ Dahi, or selling out shows across the UK, as he is when we catch up with him at Leeds’ Belgrave Music Hall.
It’s not the archetypal rap come-up, but nothing about Rejjie Snow is quite what you’d expect, and while he navigates the next steps of his career, it’s clear that the 23-year-old is comfortable in his own skin.
He just wants to inspire others to feel the same…
How’s the tour been for you so far?
I’m not really too into touring; I got ill the first day. But the actual shows themselves have been so sick, because I feel like I’ve got a catalogue of music now that people know. That feels cool. Sometimes at shows I didn’t have enough songs to play, but now it feels like I’ve got a proper set together, so it’s good.
I’ve seen you a few times over the past few years, and despite not having a full-length project out it never felt like you were that artist that only has a couple of songs. How did you keep people engaged for a full set when you’ve only released a limited amount of material?
Just winging it, doing lots of unreleased stuff. My main kind of thing is to make the show as good as possible, as opposed to giving people the expectation of what they know. I’d rather just play even just a show of all unreleased music if it was better than the stuff that I’d put out previously. I’ve got a lot of music that I still haven’t released for whatever reason, so depending on the vibe of the show and the city you’re in, we’ll just play stuff that suits the vibe of the place. I guess now [it’s different because] I’ve got like singles and all that s**t.
Hip-Hop can be difficult to follow when you’re hearing it live for the first time, how do you find the responses to the brand new stuff you’ve been playing?
Yeah, as a fan you’re just hearing that for the first time, so I like it. It tells me whether I can pursue the track further, so it’s always a good indication in that sense. It’s mostly just about feeling too. It feels good to play new s**t for me. Even with the tour, doing the same sets every night gets so repetitive, it feels kind of weird. I just feel like whatever happens on stage in the moment, then that’s all the matters.
It feels like over the past six months or so you’ve started to get into a nice groove with the single releases. How has that been for you?
I just feel I kind of found myself more and have got more people invested in what I’m trying to do musically. Up until last year, I was kind of struggling. I didn’t even know what a single was basically, and then I ended up getting signed and there’s this whole thing about singles and the process. Because I already had the album finished, or an album that I had already made. The [version of the] album that I’m bringing out is totally different.
Since I got signed, I’ve been learning how to digest the industry and the politics, the people and the strategies, and ways in which you can make your songs get out to more people. Now that I’ve learnt that, over the last couple of months it’s put me in a different thought process. Not even that I like it, but everything just seems different; I’m still trying to process that.
I just went from making songs in my bedroom to going out to America and working with people there that are like super established and have sick accolades, you know what I mean?
It’s been interesting to watch you from putting out these jazzy, melodic sort of experiments on Soundcloud, and following the progression to this latest run of singles. It speaks a lot on your diversity as an artist, because while a lot has changed the quality has always remained…
I paid a lot of [attention to] the idea that this song might not work live and that song will work live, and that kind of mentality is something to bear in mind. As an artist your live shows are super important. I’ve been trying to make my shows the best shows, and I think it’s paying dividends. People seem to really enjoy this tour, and that’s what I’m trying to really master right now.
I feel like the whole music and creativity thing is something I just have naturally, so that’s not an issue. It’s just about moulding it and other things around it. Making it like an experience, not just a hip-hop show, because hip-hop shows aren’t really fun when you think about it. So I’m just trying to make it like a movie.
It’s been great to see artists like yourself being able to sell out shows all over the UK, without having to be focused on chart success or radio. That didn’t seem possible a decade ago, how does that feel for you?
It feels very empowering. I want people to really know that I do it for them and it’s sick that people actually support me in that because all I’m really concerned about is just giving back and connecting with fans. I want to make sure they feel connected to me, that they can relate to me and I’m not just some puppet. I don’t really have any role models and at least if I’m in a position of power, I want to at least be identifiable with young people.
At the shows, most of the kids are super young and that’s so sick, because I remember when I was young, I’d go out to shows and I went to Pharrell and I went to Kanye and just seeing someone like that on stage [was inspiring]. Hopefully I just want to kind of imitate that. Throughout my career, just be that Pharrell that I seen when I was a kid.
Back in the day, I looked up to everybody, copied everybody. Musicians and football players were everything to me. That’s what I wanted to be. I mostly looked up to football players, but I also looked up to weird musicians like George Michael. People thought that was funny, but as I got older, I was like, “Dude makes good music.” So maybe I was just on my s**t back then.
How did you first start working with Rahki? It feels like he’s played a big part in your current run of success.
Yeah definitely, the album was made in LA, so it’s got a LA sound, funk, colourful sound. Rahki was on my wish list of producers and fortunately my label were able to reach out to them and make it happen.
The first couple sessions were horrible but we just kept going until we built a relationship together and then made some good music. I feel like it was a very good learning experience for me, I’ve learnt a lot and had to properly make ideas into music.
In hip-hop there is always a link between sounds and the areas they represent. You’ve been able to transcend that by moving around, from Dublin to Florida, Georgia and L.A., how important is the location you’re in to the music you’re making?
It’s important because it’s good to be identifiable mainly. And also your experiences speak through your music. When you look into my s**t, you’ll know that I’m from Dublin because it’s evident in my music, it’s who I am, it’s how I act. The way I live my life is all based around the city I was born in. So that’s never going to leave me.
When you’re making art, you need to have a sense of self and that’s always going to shine through. Especially when you’re from a place that people don’t see as important, because that’s not the case; me being from Dublin is what’s going to sell me the most. I’m not afraid to show people that I’m not afraid to tell people where I’m from, because it’s made me who I am.
With music, it shouldn’t matter where you live. I feel like people invest more time in the actual human, the actual artist. All that other s**t doesn’t make a difference. I feel like I’ve shown people that second guess that you can’t be where I’m from and internationally make noise. It’s just music, isn’t it? Music doesn’t have any kind of colour or race. At least, that’s how I see things.
Do you make different music depending on the place you’re in at the time you’re making it?
I’m in different moods. I’m in New York, I’m with my chick, then when I’m in Dublin, I’m just f**king around. Then when I’m in London I’m surrounded by musicians.
But also just the climates and the colours and the sounds. I feel like London, the city really shapes the music scenes. It’s all kind of intertwined at the base. That’s the same in Dublin.
America’s just somewhere that I base myself to live and I don’t really feel that’s really affected my music besides a track I made called ‘Crooked Cops’, just because I was out there when that happened and, maybe because of the colour of my skin, but I just felt like I was immersed in whatever was happening.
It’s not my struggle, I’m not from that country. I definitely identify with it but I just felt like I had to just say something and I just made the track and had to get something off my chest and that became a thing. It was never intended to be anything, because I’m not from that, I don’t know what it’s like. I’ve had different interactions with police.
I see everything different, I just want to make music. I try to make these movies and people just f**king always blow it out of context and I f**king hate that s**t. I’m not political and I don’t care for politics at all in any way. I hope I do one day, but as for now, my brain’s just on some other s**t.
Your latest video ‘Flexin’ demonstrates a great juxtaposition between this huge contemporary club banger, and visuals shot in Dublin, a place that we wouldn’t usually expect to see in a rap video.
That’s again, me being able to do that; kind of going against what I should be expected to do. That’s just my whole thing, doing what I’m not supposed to. But not to be that kind of anti-everything, it’s just because that’s me. Even when I make songs now, I just want to get out of that like “now we’re supposed to do a 16-bar verse” type s**t. I just want to be really free and just really do the first ideas that come to my head. Mostly, the first ideas that come to my head are the best ones.
Doing that video was good. I feel like I need to do more s**t back home. Because I feel like everyone is on my side now, as opposed to before, I was having difficulty trying to show people the vision. People didn’t get me, and I understand, I wouldn’t get it either, but I feel like now I’ve got a little army of people that f**k with everything. That’s all you need, having people that support you can take you the furthest. So being able to go back and do a video like that, paying homage to a scene that’s very prominent in Dublin; those people in that video, that’s what they do. Definitely got friends that did that s**t and definitely seen that s**t.
So it’s just paying homage and just trying to be creative at the same time. It’s not easy, because I’m not trying to just do a video with a bunch of girls around me. It’s not too inspiring, so at least if I can do something that can get people talking in any way or just paying respect to my city. Even though I know it’s a negative thing, it’s like it’s real. So f**k it. Most of the s**t I like and do are negative things so what’s the point in sugarcoating it, you know?
What does success look like to you?
Lots of money.
Not that. But obviously, I’m trying to be rich. People that are inspirational, that’s success to me. Just walking around and people show you respect; you don’t feel the need to show anything but love.
Interview by Grant Brydon
Portrait by Joshua Gordan