IMAGES COURTESY OF KELIA MACCLUSKEY
Alex Anyaegbunam, better known as Rejjie Snow, is more than just another across-the-pond rapper. Formerly known as Lecs Luther, the 20-year-old Irish MC is reconstructing our perceptions of hip-hop; he embraces that he was—and still is—the odd one out. The Rejjie Snow persona is the charming rebel who has a way with concepts as well as words (he once sent hip-hop blogs into overdrive when a video emerged of him revealing himself to be Flying Lotus’ Captain Murphy character), and he is rarely caught without a knowing wink for his audience.
Snow’s rapping style is articulated with an often-complex lyrical intensity over a jazzy, less rudimental backdrop, which separates him from other UK rappers and their cranked-up flurry of voracious lyrics drizzled over sinister beats. There’s a melancholic undertone to Snow’s sound, but it’s not cumbersome; it’s a sequence of evanescent rhymes that hearken back to hip-hop’s golden age. Snow’s technique has attracted the likes of Kendrick Lamar and DOOM, both of whom he opened for back in his hometown Dublin, and, in addition to linking with the Elton John-owned Rocket Music, he recently signed to indie London label Kaya Kaya Records. Chilling in his hotel room in Montreal, we waxed lyrical with the up-and-comer over Skype about his Irish roots and his uncanny similarities to Waka Flocka. We’re also pleased to present the U.S. premiere of his song “Loveleen,” below.
SAFRA DUCREAY: You were living in Atlanta for a while, right?
REJJIE SNOW: Yep. I was going to university.
DUCREAY: It seems as though every European artist wants to crack the U.S. market. If you were in such a good position, why would you even bother come back to Europe?
SNOW: I think I work better in my own surroundings. The way Europe is, its architecture and culture, has a part to play in my music. I also think just being around people that are my own and relate to me better helps to stimulate my music.
DUCREAY: Do you think you’re going to end up back in America?
SNOW: Yeah, I think so. Just for a brief while—not permanently. New York is a possibility because of the music and opportunities; it’s a good place to be. It’s good to network and stuff.
DUCREAY: You’re not British, but you tend to be classified as a Brit. How important is your heritage to what you do?
SNOW: It’s actually more so with American press—they categorize me as British. But with European or British [press] most of the time, they classify me as Irish. Ultimately, it doesn’t really bother me, but my fans being where I’m from, they want to take claim to the fact that I’m home-grown; they want to see me shine—not to be seen as I’m from somewhere else. Obviously, in the best way I can, I’m representing my city, where I’m from [Dublin]—I wanna banish that whole mentality that Irish hip-hop will never go anywhere and has no talent. Like when people say we sound shitty and we’re not creative—I just wanna be the first one to say “fuck that” and really show there’s some genuinely talented people there.
DUCREAY: You’ve read the Malcolm X autobiography, right?
SNOW: Yeah—I’ve got like, 15 pages to finish, but I’ve read most of it.
DUCREAY: What do you think he’d think of your album cover?
SNOW: I couldn’t tell with him, but I think he’d be pissed off; maybe because it’s pushing it a bit too much. But I think if you strip down the actual message, it’s relevant. The message of equality is really coming to the forefront. I’m still relatively new, but I think in later years when I’ve got a bigger catalogue, this can be looked back as something that was good. The meaning behind it is because I grew up being the only black kid, so it’s me showing that it didn’t matter; you can still do what you want to do. It shouldn’t have to stop you or affect you. I’m not just saying it, I’ve actually experienced it.
DUCREAY: At what moment did you realize shit was about to get real?
SNOW: I was in high school in America, and the guys from Elton John’s management flew out to see me. I was in class and they picked me up in a black SUV; they were talking to me on some business shit, it was surreal. That’s when it hit home; this wasn’t a game, things were starting to take off in a way, and the right kinds of people were recognizing me. The Illuminati. [laughs]
DUCREAY: The era of the record label is dead, would you agree?
SNOW: When you look at Lil’ B and Mac Miller, at the end of the day, with the Internet and social media, you don’t really need a label, essentially. If your buzz is hot, what’s a record label gonna do other than get you on the radio?
DUCREAY: But you’re on a record label.
SNOW: The thing is with me, I was really smart with the choices I’ve made and who I went with. I could’ve signed with a bigger label or someone who had a stronger push, but I chose to go with an indie label just because I’m still trying to find my feet and I want things to grow organically. The label I’m with now, it’s run by two girls, they’re young as hell, like 21, 24. It’s not a bad thing, and they can get my stuff out to the right people. I don’t feel any pressure as well. I want to make a career out of this, and I feel there’s only one route to go. If your shit’s popping, then hopefully you don’t have to go with one. But they’re only gonna help you, but I’ll always be in full control of my shit; no one’s ever gonna take that away from me. Even if I go with a bigger label, it’s not gonna change anything.
DUCREAY: For your single “Loveleen,” off of your EP Rejovich, is there a music video coming out?
SNOW: There’s a video for a song called “Snow,” and possibly “Loveleen.”
DUCREAY: Are you directing them?
SNOW: I’m co-directing them, but if the ideas are not good, then I’m not gonna do it. So that basically means I directed them.
DUCREAY: The video with the albinos, “Lost in Empathy,” it was very cinematic.
SNOW: Yeah, with my visuals, I don’t really fuck around. I’m never gonna settle for shitty visuals, because that’s the most important things musicians actually have beside live gigs, you know. Visuals can do a lot for you; but it has to be right, though, it has to be sick.
DUCREAY: How did the imagery for that video come about?
SNOW: I was doing research on albinos, I just had an interest for it, in my head, I was trying to create ideas; I’d never seen albinos being killed, so I was like, “Wow, I’m gonna do that.”
DUCREAY: Can you tell me a time when you’ve done something that could be considered controversial?
SNOW: This is a funny story, actually. Back in Dublin when I used to paint graffiti, me and my boy did this in broad daylight. In Dublin, there are a lot of shutters that are closed during the day. That’s perfect, because cars drive by shutters and it’s like having your name there and people see it. And we got a couple cones and those orange workman jackets, and pretended as though we were supposed to be there. So we cornered off the curve and painted the shutter pink during the day and nobody bothered us; it was just mad chill, and then later in the night we came back and did graffiti in big ass letters that said “FUCK COPS”—that got us mad fame for like a week where I’m from.
DUCREAY: Is graffiti something you’re still going to carry on with?
SNOW: Definitely. With the album cover and kind of bringing graffiti and hip-hop culture back together. No one’s really doing that, except for Ratking.
DUCREAY: You don’t think that’s a bit outdated?
SNOW: When I do it, it’s going to be subtle; people will know I’ve been doing it for years. Not some graphic hipster kind of vibe.
SNOW: Yeah. This hipster world is just downing everything.
DUCREAY: Who’s to say you’re not a hipster?
SNOW: The streets know.
DUCREAY: But your core audience might not know that…
SNOW: It’s more so the underground element of the music—the real scene that is happening in London and Dublin. You know someone who would listen to DOOM or Souls of Mischief as opposed to more commercial stuff in a way. The guys who listen to DOOM may know who I am; that’s what I mean.
DUCREAY: To the average listener, even if they do listen to DOOM, and Black Moon, and Guru, they might still compare you to, say, Tyler, the Creator. Being aware of that, do you still feel your sound is a work in progress or at this stage is this who you are?
SNOW: I don’t really feel it’s going to be set in stone for the rest of my career. But you can see the progression. I’m more comfortable and I trust my own creativity, it’s not forced. I’m not trying to please people. It’s just me doing something natural and it’s paying off.
DUCREAY: What makes Talib Kweli real hip-hop versus Waka Flocka?
SNOW: I think it’s more of an appreciation of the art form, which separates Talib Kweli, whereas Waka is wild and might just be saying anything.
DUCREAY: Who do you relate to more?
SNOW: Maybe Waka. That’s funny, ’cause I don’t really want to, but I do. I like the lifestyle, and I wear grills sometimes.
DUCREAY: There’s something about what you’re doing right now that kind of reminds me of LL [Cool J] circa 1985. I don’t know why… maybe it’s the bucket hats.
SNOW: Maybe it’s because I’m incredibly handsome. [laughs]
REJJIE SNOW’S REJOVICH EP IS OUT THIS WEEK. FOR MORE ON THE ARTIST, PLEASE VISIT HIS WEBSITE.