News Rejjie Snow: ‘It’s Been Hard, Growing Up With My Music’

Huw Oliver finds a rapper who’s at long last proving Irish hip hop to be a non-laughable proposition.

Rejjie Snow

(known as Alex Butler to his friends), the low-spirited, paint-obsessed rapper from Lucan, South Dublin, seems exhausted when we phone him up to chat about his new EP, ‘Rejovich’ (out now on XL imprint Kaya Kaya Records). He’s just recovered from his birthday celebrations the week before, garbles along at roughly 0.5x normal time in a deep, yawning drawl, but holds up defiant and insightful.

The reason we want to chat is simple. His back-to-basics sound and raw, guttural scowl are at long last proving Irish hip hop to be a non-laughable proposition. You try and name a better Irish rap than Snow’s aggressive spits on ‘Lost in Empathy’. Born and bred on the Emerald Isle, it seems the now 20-year-old rapper is simply moving with the tide, taking all the plaudits he gets as if the natural by-product of his predetermined greatness.

You turned 20 this month - how does it feel entering your third decade?
It felt kinda scary. I feel like there are a lot of responsibilities coming my way.

Going back in time a bit, you turned heads in January with your single ‘Lost in Empathy’, which dealt with the violent persecution of East African Albinos. What inspired you write about such a distressing topic?
Well the impetus stemmed from a while back when I went to Nigeria and I was just seeing Albinos and found out about the issue… when you first see that, it’s kind of hard to understand but you’re left kinda like ‘what the… what’s that?’. Later on, the whole interest rekindled and I watched mad documentaries and kinda got mad into it. I don’t know, I just thought it would be cool to visually do something around that whole thing. I thought it would make for an interesting story.

Lyrically, what kind of writers do you draw inspiration from?
I like Charles Bukowski and I don’t know…maybe Franz Kafka.

That makes sense.
Yeah, writers like that, you know. I don’t really have a favourite writer, I just appreciate people’s work. You know what I’m saying?

Your ‘Rejovich’ EP is on iTunes now. Does it feel cool to get it out there?
Yeah, it’s cool to just to release some music because it’s been a while. It’s good to have that off my back and just move onto the next project.

I read in previous interviews that it was supposed to be release as an album, so what happened there?
Yeah, I don’t know, I just had so many songs. We just kind of like thought it would be better not just go out and release them all at once, but save some of them for later, which should hopefully work out.

So, what kind of themes have you touched on this time round?
A mixture of everything, G. Just life, you know.

How do you go about writing your songs?
It’s a weird process. Normally I have the beat first and work around that. Once I have the beat, then it’s kinda like I’ll just reflect on shit, take some time out and really like see what can go around the instruments and then once I find that out, then I just normally watch mad cartoons and listen to people that inspire me. And then once that’s all finished, then I’ll just brainstorm ideas… It just comes naturally to me.

Do you make beats yourself?
Yeah, like, low-key ones. I do make some beats myself but nothing that’s out there right now was created by me. I’m sure eventually I’ll get some courage to release them.

So, which producers did you work with on the EP?
Some guy from Paris. His name is…Thierry. And then for songs, ‘1992’, my DJ did that. His name is 92. Shit, what else. Oh yeah, for ‘Snow’, that was this guy from New York, who’s heavy. His name’s…Rufio. For tracks which, like I said, weren’t on the EP, King Krule produced and his friend too. So yeah, mad people.

And did you do the artwork yourself?
Nah, I didn’t actually draw it myself, but the whole idea and everything that’s there is my idea. I just got someone to really bring that across.

So, what was the idea?
When you first see it, obviously the message behind it is ‘we’re all just humans, we’re all the same’. Because obviously, I’m Irish and just like, it’s been hard, growing up with my music, being one of the only black guys just everywhere and shit like that. You know what I’m saying? So I tried to portray that as best I could and I felt like the whole thing, the blind guy and the girl, worked well.

Clichéd question, but I’m intrigued: what kind of styles influenced you when you were growing up?
Around the house my dad would just play normal shit like Montell Jordan and all that weird shit. RnB and D’Angelo. I don’t know, I just feel I’ve always kind of had an ear for it, you know. But mostly RnB and hip hop.

You namecheck Dr Dre on ‘1992’. Who else do you look up to?
I’d say Nas, and maybe A Tribe Called Quest.

Tell us something weird about yourself that not many people know.
I paint graffiti.

Tags: Rejjie Snow, Neu

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