Hip-Hop and R’n’B in Ireland is in the middle of somewhat of a golden generation. The rise in popularity of hip-hop as a genre worldwide has had a major role to play, as has the rise of music-sharing sites such as SoundCloud, but the biggest player in this explosion of artists is the globalisation of Ireland as a whole. Ireland has very much become a diverse society and with that meshing of cultures comes a meshing of sounds in music.
One of the first major artists to come out of this section of Irish society is Rejjie Snow. Snow, real name Alexander Anyaegbunam, was born in Ireland to a Nigerian father and an Irish-Jamaican mother and spent his childhood in the Glasnevin and Drumcondra areas of Dublin.
Towards the end of his secondary school education, Snow was offered the chance to move to Florida as part of an athletic scholarship to play soccer. This was in 2011, and by 2013 he had given up on the dream of playing football and had released his first EP of original music.
Since then, he’s signed with the label 300 Entertainment, supported Kendrick Lamar and Madonna on tour and has seen his name grow to hero-like proportions in his hometown. Now the time has come to finally release his debut LP, and ‘Dear Annie’ proves to be everything you’d want from the king of D3.
The album is a broad mix of genres, from the opening track Hello and its 40’s, chant-esque vocals to the French-infused Mon Amour, to the slow jazz sound of Ohh No!, to what is essentially a Republic of Loose cover in Charlie Brown. The album is set out similar to a radio-show album debut, with intermissions featuring Rejjie and an unknown radio host, with Snow talking about the meanings and stories behind some of the songs.
The intermissions do add to the album as a whole, giving listeners short breaks in which to allow their mind to wander, before being thrown back into introspective songs about Snow’s heartbreak, childhood and life in Los Angeles. Throughout the album, Snow shows off the lyrical dexterity that has got him so far, and his choice of instrumentation and beats demonstrates an artist not willing to be forced into a certain genre or sound. The production value leaves nothing to be desired, it sounds as crisp, new and certain of itself as an album can.
Tracks for the album were recorded between Los Angeles, London, and Paris, and were produced by a combination of Kaytranada, Rahki (who’s previously worked for Kendrick Lamar and Eminem), and Cam O’bi (Chance The Rapper and Vic Mensa) and the mixture of sounds, textures of song-structure allow the album to flow smoothly.
However ‘Dear Annie’ is not without its surprises. With guest appearances by Aminé, Ebenezer, and Anna of The North among others, as soon as you think you understand the sound and direction that ‘Dear Annie’ is going, it takes a sharp left turn. Even upon repeated listens, there’s never a point at which the album lulls, it’s constantly rising, breaking every box you try to put it in. There are points however, whereby the similarity to early Tyler The Creator is a little too obvious; Room 27 in particular, though this does little to diminish its sense of originality.
Snow’s rapping is flawless throughout, powering the song forwards whilst also adding a level of mystery through his soft, understated voice. Highlights of the album include Pink Lemonade, Spaceships, Bye Polar, and the previously mentioned Republic of Loose – homage Charlie Brown.
However, by the time you reach the final track Greatness, you feel as though you’ve learned little about Snow himself, but you are left wanting to know more. Over the album’s 20 tracks, Snow proves to everyone why he is currently considered to be one of the most important Irish acts around. If ‘Dear Annie’ is anything to go by, this is just a successful launch sequence for a potential global superstar.