Melbourne artist REMI and musical collaborator Sensible J are one of the fastest-rising hip-hop acts in Australia and are quickly gaining the attention of international tastemakers. Able to whip crowds into a frenzy, at just 23 Remi Kolawole found his way to hip-hop and everything changed.
‘I used to play piano,’ says Remi, ‘and it was classical and never appealed to me and then I met Sensible J; that was when things changed. I was at university at the time and was studying nursing.
‘I had only been rapping for six months before I met J. The more I am in the hip-hop scene the more I realise I have found a producer as knowledgeable and as talented; with the perspective he has on hip-hop and in music in general, it’s a gift, I didn’t really know any other way at that point; with time and age I realise how lucky I was.’
And that’s no understatement, with the young rapper being touted as one of Australia’s hottest properties by Billboard US.
Perhaps it’s his cultural heritage that gives Remi the edge. Australian born with Nigerian parents: ‘I have a strange voice.’ he notes. ‘You can’t understand when that is going to be useful. As a rapper it’s an advantage and also something that you can’t really learn. It definitely took me a while to be comfortable. When you hear your own voice back it’s hard to hear it! The more I am in the Australian music scene I see how important our uniqueness is in our own struggles and our own fight.’
Remi has something fresh to throw into the mix, a lot of it based on his unique perspective of home.
‘I think that is something that is also very new to Australia – to have so many second-generation migrant children here who have these different rhythms and patterns in the voice around them; it adds a uniqueness. You have your Aussie-ness but you have your vocal tones from before.’
While his mum was totally on board with his career shift from nursing to hip-hop, Remi tells how it took his father to understand that something like that could actually be a career here.
‘My mum was happy I just found something I love – she has always been my biggest fan. My pop’s originally from Nigeria; education was his way out of poverty.
It’s a huge thing and it comes from not only success but a lot of pride, like most African communities, and that’s where the butting heads began! He has now definitely come around though!’
Remi believes it’s the role of hip-hop to be edgy. He believes it’s a little like comedy.
‘The two have always been hand in hand,’ he says. ‘You have to break down the serious issues people need to talk about.’
‘It goes as far back as Bob Marley; you have people who represent causes, who fight against things that you feel are wrong in your community, and only in rap you can break it down. In rap verse you can pretty well write a thesis on what you are feeling. You can’t really do that in other artforms. I love that.’
Remi and musical collaborator Sensible J‚ at Falls Festival in Byron ‚ 30 December till 2 January.
Locals’ tickets still available for 2 January only (when Remi plays).