Rejjie Snow is one of the most exciting artists in the UK right now. Having worked with everyone from Loyle Carner, to Joey Bada$$ and Yellow Days, he’s been consistently releasing excellent projects since he first turned up five years ago. Now, and finally, we’ve reached the moment of his debut album, Dear Annie, which was every bit worth the wait. Over an hour long and incredibly high-concept, it masterfully combines 90s American rap with jazz and 00s r’n’b. I spoke to Rejjie about the album, how the internet shaped him as a musician and his politically-infused music.
Hello Rejjie, are you alright?
Hey, I’m doing good thanks, how are you?
Yeah, I’m not too bad thanks. So, Dear Annie feels like it’s been coming out for ages, it finally drops in a couple of weeks – how are you feeling about it?
Yeah, I’m really happy to just finally get it out there and it’s been like a really fun journey; it’s pretty cool that people have stuck with me throughout the whole time, so yeah, it feels really special.
You’ve released two EPs leading into it (Dear Annie), with the songs from the album. What made you do that?
It’s just to drip feed people the music, because 20 songs is a lot of songs to process, so that was kind of the idea there. But obviously I’d recommend listening to the project in one cohesive piece, because that is how it is supposed to be listened to. And even getting people to know the songs before the tour, which is really important to me as well, because it wouldn’t make sense to go out there if people didn’t know the songs.
How did you decide what songs would make the cut for the EP?
It didn’t really matter to me, obviously it was about the songs that made the most sense after each other so that was what I was thinking with that kind of idea.
The songs from these EPs almost sound more musical and melodic, maybe more so than your other work. Was that conscious? What was the writing process like?
Yeah, totally. That’s just me, I guess, growing as an artist and going back to my roots and the musicality of things and that is where I was trying to take everything. The process was really easy, just me linking up with the producers I wanted to work with and just trying to make the songs that I had in my head and capture that same feeling.
Something that interests me in regards to the EP releases is obviously the use of streaming. I don’t think you could have released them without the internet or streaming.
Yeah, probably not, but all of that shit is like the label shit and all those little tricks and stuff.
Would you say that streaming and the internet is important to your music though?
Hmm, I wouldn’t say streaming. I would say the internet is.
Because you released your first song on YouTube, didn’t you?
Trust me, yeah. Just in my bedroom, putting stuff out there. That’s the kind of world I can relate to and that’s just how easy it can be to do things. It’s crazy how four years later I’m making my first album. It all just feels so unexpected, this was never a plan or anything like that. It just kind of happened slowly. The power of the internet is mad.
So you’re enjoying every minute of it then, I guess?
Yeah, it’s cool man. It feels cool.
In regards to the record, you said that Annie is an imaginary friend, or someone you’ve made up…
Yeah, like a fictional character.
Where did the idea for that come from? And would you call it a concept album?
Yeah, yeah. That was like one of so many ideas and that’s the one that clicked with me the most. It’s definitely a concept album. I tried to make it subjective so each and every one who listens to it comes away with something different. I just really tried to capture this world through music, so yeah it’s definitely cohesive stuff.
You’ve said in the past that you were heavily influenced by the late 90s/early 2000s American rap – people like The Game and 50 Cent. What do you make of the new breed coming through, both in America and the UK?
I like everything. I’m loving all the different types of hip-hop coming out now, like trap is popular which is sick because we haven’t seen that before and I think it’s really exciting. And again with the internet, I think it’s really cool that they’re getting their music out now and becoming successful. Obviously I listen to the classic albums that have been made, especially the ones in the 90s, especially when I was making my own album to take influence.
What is it like making UK rap/hip-hop music outside of the grime moniker, did you find that there was more of a demand for that? Or did you just want to do your own thing?
It’s interesting because making music from Europe and Dublin, where I’m from, you don’t really know where to cater towards. I guess at some point I just said, “Fuck it”, and it doesn’t matter how my stuff is perceived. I thought if I was just true to myself than people would figure it out and not try and pigeon-hole me into genres. So that’s how I kind of approach my stuff. Just making music for all types of people, all types of genres because even me as myself I listen to all types of music and go to all types of shows. Yeah, it’s always something I’m conscious about when I’m making music. Do you know what I mean?
What type of shows have you been to lately?
I went to a punk-rock show in New York for a band called Show Me The Body which was pretty sick and that was the last show I went to. It was a cool experience to see that kind of style of music and to see how it’s performed. It was cool.
Some people say there are similarities with punk and hip-hop. Would you say you see that?
Yeah, just the energy. I think hip-hop takes a lot of influence from the punk style. Even these days, a lot of rappers are calling themselves rockstars even though they don’t merit that. It’s funny to see how all types of music are interconnected.
Some of the people you have worked with have been big names, like Loyle Carner and Joey Bada$$, is there anyone you really want to collaborate with?
Yeah, it’s been good working with them. Not really, I’m not really trying to ever collab with people unless it makes sense. All the collabs I’ve done have just come from friendships and random occurrences. Obviously there’s a lot of artists I’d want to work with, and hopefully that will happen one day, but I’m just going to keep my thing moving and when that happens, it happens. If it does happen, it’ll be amazing because I think it’s amazing when people come together, especially for music. It’s a great thing, but yeah, I’m always open to working with people, but there’s no gap: it could be anybody.
One of the collaborations I want to talk about is ‘Lately I’ with Yellow Days. That song is amazing. How did it come about? And what was he like to work with?
So I kind of get hip to George’s (Yellow Days) music, like a couple of months ago, I’m kind of late to everything! He just wanted to work with me and he’s a fan of my music so we just got in the studio and that track was the first track we did. It was sick to see his process because that track was from scratch when I first heard it at the beginning of the day and by the evening it was like a fully formed track. I wanted to change it initially, but he didn’t have the time because he was in a rush to put out the album. He’s definitely someone who is going to make a lot of noise.
So did you work on other stuff? Can we expect any more?
Yeah, not that day, but he produced a song of mine on the album called ‘The Ends’ and when I say he produced it, he produced a couple of beats and it stood out and I put my raps over it. He’s really talented.
You’ve played Concorde 2 and The Great Escape in Brighton. How have you found the Brighton crowds towards your music?
They’re a great crowd and they’re always up for it.
Is touring something you like?
Erm, yeah. Obviously I love playing songs to fans, but at some point it does get a bit tiring. You know what I mean? Just the same shit all the time, but it’s important to stay focused and remember that it’s not about me. People have paid money to come and see me so you’ve got to just go through the motions. Other than that it’s fun. It’s good to see cities and to meet people. I’m really grateful for the opportunity even to get the chance to play, so it’s cool.
Are you able to write on the road, or do you have to separate that?
It depends, I just write whenever I’m in the mood really so that could be anywhere. It could be a tour bus, or it could be wherever, and that’s just how I’ve always been.
You’re the only non-American rapper signed to 300 Entertainment. Does that come with more or less pressure?
Probably more pressure from their side because I feel like with me people never really know how to kind of work with whatever I’m trying to do. Especially being Irish, it’s not the most marketable thing ever. So with that I just think it’s a challenge for me, and people are working with me because it’s different and I think that’s exciting. Even with me, I’m never thinking about the fact I’m the only Irish artist on the roster or whatever. It’s not a focus for me, but I guess with the stories that I’m trying to tell it’s still relatable to some degree. I feel like we all share the same sort of struggles, so it’s cool.
Plus you’ve spent a lot of time in the US. Do you think that’s affected your music?
Yeah, totally. It’s affected my life really. It was kind of a shock, but I was grateful for the opportunity to go out there because I think I just learnt more.
An example of that is with ‘Crooked Cops’. You dropped that on Trump’s inauguration. Obviously you did that on purpose, but is it important for you to be political?
I don’t know, that’s something I’m still trying to learn now. I don’t know whether to make shit that’s political because obviously I feel so many different ways about so many different things. But I think it will just sort of happen by itself. I’m definitely very conscious about everything that’s going on in the world and I think that musicians have responsibilities to be a part of it because they’re the closest relatable voice to everything.
Rejjie Snow is a stage name. Is there a difference between you, Alex Anyaegbunam, and Rejjie Snow?
Yeah, totally. I think with Rejjie Snow, I try to make it iconic, do you know what I mean? Like this person that I want to be. Then obviously when I’m Alex I’m just ‘regular joe’.
Do you ever struggle to get in and out of the persona?
I’d say struggle is not the word but there’s definitely like every day. It’s something that you have to adapt to quick because no one else will see it but you. So when you figure that out it’s easier because there’s so many different emotions attached to things. Like obviously I’ve got my own kind of thing, like I’ve got to be this person and put on this costume sometimes. It’s cool, because I think with me I’m always myself, so it’s not too different.
Finally, what are you listening to at the moment?
At the moment I’m listening to King Krule’s new album. It just feels good now, you know with the time of the year.