At just 19, Rema represents the global future of Afropop. The Nigerian artist takes an omnivorous approach to his craft, blurring the boundaries between Afrobeats and Bollywood, emo rap, reggaeton, and trap to create music that sounds as though it’s being beamed into 2020 from the future.
“I let them do the maths so when they’re like, ‘It sounds Latin,’ or, ‘Oh wow, it sounds like this,’ it’s actually a good thing,” Rema said in his cover interview for the spring/summer 2020 issue of Dazed. “I feel good because for you to think of so many cultures from just one song, it means that my music is multi-dimensional, it’s multi-territorial.”
He noted that when Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” exploded on Nigerian radio, he was inspired to see a sound from a different culture become so pervasive, despite the language barrier, because of its sheer joy. “These guys actually made a song that makes Africans dance – we didn’t even understand a single word. I had to note it to myself, and I see myself doing the same thing right now.”
So it’s no surprise that Rema has fans all over the world – former US president Barack Obama even included his Bollywood-adjacent “Iron Man” in a ‘best of 2019’ playlist. He’s headlined a Boiler Room festival, and performed for Berlin tastemakers COLORS. But Rema’s ambitions stretch even beyond Earth, with his visuals and lyrics rich with reference to outer space. “Right now I’m trying UFOs and stuff to (communicate) a better understanding of another dimension,” he told Dazed. Songs like “Beamer (Bad Boys)” and “Dumbei”, with their metallic, space-age vocals scattered over timeless Afrobeats rhythms, sound like they could well have landed from another planet.
“For you to think of so many cultures from just one song, it means that my music is multi-dimensional, it’s multi-territorial” - Rema
In Rema’s own words: “My music is evergreen, because there is nowhere else you (can) go around the world and find this type of sound.” Right now the world is ready for a new Afrobeats superstar, and with his unpredictable, lithe melodies and future-facing sound, Rema is poised to be it.
What creative or philanthropic project would you work on with a grant from the Dazed 100 Ideas Fund?
Rema: I want to support the next generation of musical youth in Benin City. It’s important because there is so much talent there that the world needs to see, and not everyone might be lucky enough to get the kind of support I did from my Mavin Records/Jonzing World family. I was blessed to have this opportunity and I’d like to pay it forward.