rejjie snow: internationally known and locally respected
With his hotly anticipated debut Dear Annie set for release this year, we meet the man behind the music.
Rejjie wears Blanket Braindead. Hat and chain model's own.
We catch up with a sleepy Rejjie Snow at his temporary base in Los Angeles over a crackling phone connection. The 22-year-old (born Alex Anyaegbunam), is in the City of Angels for a tour that has taken him around the U.S, and to finish his eagerly-awaited debut album, Dear Annie. Rejjie's just woken up after a "fun but trippy night" that started with "weed brownies" and that ended... well, with the subsequent shenanigans they create. As we settle into the conversation, Blakkst Skn, his Kaytranada-produced, electro-funk infused track seeps in through a slightly ajar door in the i-D office where I'm sat. "That's all you want, for your music to be played and listened to," Rejjie says approvingly. "Everything else is whatever."
Growing up in North Dublin, with an older sister and a younger brother, Rejjie's grandmother was the biggest influence on his family life. "I basically grew up around my granny as my dad would travel a lot. I learnt a lot from her," he says. As a child, he was the only black kid at school and found himself quite popular as a result. "I think it was because I was different," he muses. "I was really good at football and running, but still super shy and quiet. I had a lot of anger as a kid and that would manifest itself in different ways, I would get in trouble a lot. I never really engaged with school, I just knew I wanted to be out and doing my own thing." His own thing was music, which Rejjie fell in love with at a young age. "I was around music as a kid and I always wanted to know more. I would ask a lot more questions about music than any of my friends would. I didn't want to just know about the songs, I wanted to know about the people," he explains. Rejjie attended stage school until he was 13, taking tap dancing lessons and performing in local pantomimes; relishing any opportunity to perform. "I even played the janitor in Bugsy Malone!" he laughs. "I taught myself piano off YouTube and played the cheesiest songs. I used to play some Enrique Iglesias song every Christmas when I was 15. I did clarinet lessons, I did a bunch of things, but then I discovered girls so I stopped all that extra curricular stuff."
At 17, Rejjie rented out time at a studio and recorded a few songs under the moniker Louie Gaye ("I was into Marvin at the time") as well as songs under the name Lecs Luther, which garnered buzz on the internet. Despite his keen interest and undeniable talent, instead of focussing on music Rejjie decided to take up the offer of a football scholarship in the U.S. at Georgia's Savannah College of Art and Design. "I loved music but there were no outlets, no places to go and make songs, and none of my friends were doing it so I felt kind of lost," he recalls. Whilst at Savannah, reps from Elton John's Rocket Management stumbled across Rejjie's YouTube videos and flew out to meet him. "Elton John literally hit me up and came out to my school in America and I was like 'what the fuck!?'" Rejjie says, still blown away by the situation today. In 2013, aged 20, he released his debut EP, Rejovich, as Rejjie Snow. The five-track release, which features his good friends Jesse James (on Ussr), and Loyle Carner, (on 1992) sonically finds its median between mellow and clashing rhythms, with Rejjie's raps, delivered in a soft Irish drawl, the perfect accompaniment.
Since then, Rejjie has released 2015's, All Around The World, produced by Cam O'bi who boasts Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa as his past collaborators. The song, a hazy ode to love and loss, features it-girl of the moment, Lily-Rose Depp in the video and racked up over half a million views in its first week of release. His 2016 releases Late Again, dedicated to his mum, and Keep Your Head Up, written for a friend currently incarcerated, demonstrate the introspective approach Rejjie takes to each of his tracks. "My lyrics are always coming from a real place, even if it doesn't always seem like it." He goes on, "the reason why it has taken so long to put out an album is because for a long time I didn't have anything to talk about... to stand on a fake pedestal, I think that's weird. I would rather say nothing." But this year, it seems Rejjie is ready to talk. His upcoming album, entitled Dear Annie, is in his own words "a combination of everything I have ever done and ever seen put in a big blender." Primarily dealing with life and death, the 'Annie' in the album's title isn't the name of anyone in particular, rather the symbol of a "female god." Rejjie explains, "She represents all these girls and the album is a letter to her. Saying sorry for what I did and taking responsibility for my actions. The songs are fun and uplifting in places but sometimes a bit dark in places too. It's confusing but it will make sense when you hear it, because I can't explain the shit I do. All I know is that it's my first piece of honest music." While we don't know what it will sound like just yet we can bet on it being unapologetically authentic and real, just like the man himself. "I am trying to be the person people want me to be but stay true to myself. And if people don't dig that, then it is what it is!"
Interview Lynette Nylander
Photography Jalan and Jibril Durimel