Rejjie Snow in the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, 12 March 2018

On a brisk March night Dublin city welcomed home one of its conquering heroes. Alexander Anyaegbunam, better known by his stage name Rejjie Snow, returned to Dublin to rock a sold-out Olympia theatre. The 24-year-old rapper doesn’t come back empty handed either. Fresh off the release of ‘Dear Annie’, his first project with label 300 entertainment, home to Young Thug and Migos, the Dubliner has established himself as one of the hip-hop industry’s ascending talents.

Snow has always sold himself as an artist intent on avoiding the stereotypes of hip-hop. From his openness regarding mental health issues to his progressive quips on gender normativity, Snow is clearly ahead of the mainstream curve on these issues and more.

Snow opens with Pink Lemonade, delivered with searing energy. The artist showcases his technique immediately, even if he seems a little nervous at times throughout this first song. Snow’s mastery of delivery and flow is considerable, always right on the beat. This is impressive in that ‘Dear Annie’ sees the artist adopt a largely new style of hip-hop, more akin to classic Pharrell than the underground tradition he was originally associated with.

Room 27 sees Snow fully settle into the routine. The artist fills the otherwise empty stage with a tremendous presence. There’s little in the way of a light show or stage design. Just a DJ and the artist. This conscious minimalism only highlights the intensity and passion with which Snow delivers his lines. ‘Dear Annie’ is conceptual in both lyrical and musical content, a project which forced the artist to evolve rapidly. It’s clear that Snow is now revelling in the album’s success.

There’s a surprising amount of old material featured in the set. It seems a choice born of practicality more so than anything else. The enunciated beats of the Snow’s older tracks allow the artist to employ trickier flows than the super slick laid back style employed throughout ‘Dear Annie’. The older material by and large still appears to be some of the fan favourites too.

The set highlight has to be the excellent Mon Amour, performed live with vocals from the wonderful Milena LeBlanc, who features heavily on ‘Dear Annie’. It combines all the strongest assets Snow has as both an artist and a performer.  There’s the clever production, unique approach and the old school smooth flow.

When Snow announces that he’s going to bring on an Irish act, seeing as he’s home, there’s a palpable sense of anticipation. It’s hugely disappointing when that act transpires to be Versatile, whose music lacks in anything but the very lowest common denominator appeal. Considering the current wealth of fantastic Irish hip-hop, Snow’s choice of artist highlights the stretch of time he’s spent away from the country and how far the Irish scene has come during his absence.

However, the biggest problem with the show as a whole is Snow himself. If one were to listen to ‘Dear Annie’ as an introduction, they’d be shown an empathetic and intelligent songwriter. The artist has developed a unique take on an otherwise saturated hip-hop market and a large part of his success is his ability to appear human in a culture of artists who often present themselves as otherwise. His live performances do not quite reflect his studio image.

There’s a large disconnect between the braggadocios swagger of the man on stage and the human vulnerability of the artist on record. Perhaps we’ve caught the artist right in the middle of a tricky transitional period, but if that’s the case, there’s more work to be done here.