LIVE: Remi Kolawole’s realism in the raw

REMI Kolawole has only been rapping for three or four years, but his success has been phenomenal.
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REMI, 22, said his success as Triple J’s 2013 Unearthed Artist of the Year had a lot to do with luck and timing – but countless fans and global attention seems to suggest otherwise.

‘‘I think that’s just mostly the music industry anyway,’’ said the ever modest REMI.

‘‘I think we got a bit of publicity from it but it’s hard to tell from the inside where the attention is coming from.

‘‘We live in a bubble on purpose because music comes out of your mind, whether you’re making beats or writing lyrics or whatever, and if something is affecting your mind – whether it’s your perception of yourself or what other people are thinking – then you’re not thinking straight.’’

REMI worked with Sensible J and Dutch on his new album, RAW X INFINITY. The trio, who have been recording since the release of Regular People Shit in 2012, have since embarked on a national tour.

He said inspiring writing sessions had led to an oversupply of material, and listeners could expect another release in less than two years.

‘‘We finished most of the album over the space of a week-and-a-half this year. As a result of having had to write hard to a deadline, we wanted to keep writing,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ll write a whole bunch of songs and then figure out how to put them all together. You always find that after you finish an album you want to keep writing because you’re in a great head space.’’

REMI said the lyrics in RAW X INFINITY were meant to take a closer look at society and its expectations, without necessarily commenting.

‘‘It’s cool because some people find it welcome and some people don’t, but I’d prefer there to be an honest reaction to what we’re doing rather than just middle-of-the-road acceptance,’’ he said.

One of the issues covered on the album is being forced to try to choose a career or life direction by the end of high school.

‘‘I’m a rapper and there’s not a class or avenue to take that will make you become a rapper,’’ he said.

‘‘Kids are forced to make huge decisions after not even finding themselves. I went from doing nursing for half a year to becoming a rapper, and I’m one of the lucky few. Lots of people are given limited options.

‘‘My father is from Nigeria. In order for him to get out of poverty he had limited options. We have more options than that but people end up doing shit they don’t necessarily love.’’

REMI said the dream was to make rapping his career and get to a point where the music he makes pays the bills. In the meantime, he works in retail on the side.

‘‘Something I notice when I’m working my part-time job is that often, when I say ‘Hi, how are you going’ to someone, they reply with ‘work’s work’ or something like that.

‘‘I know people who want to be doctors or they want to be tradies. If you want to do one of the options we have been given, that’s great, but I’m a weirdo and that’s not how I see it in my head.

‘‘Like my song Livin’. None of these things are meant to be critiques on how shit is; it’s just stating how shit is. That’s the key to rap. Just be real. I give people the realest situation they can possibly get.’’

REMI touches on the prevalence of club drugs in his song: XTC Party. He said it’s something he noticed becoming a big thing on tour.

‘‘This is not telling people to do or not to do drugs. It’s just what we’ve seen over the last two years’ touring,’’ he said.

‘‘Obviously it’s always been prevalent but the one thing that was the biggest was ice. You are at liberty to do whatever you want but ice is the one thing that – if you start it – you’re not really yourself afterwards.

‘‘A person goes from being someone you’re really good friends with and becoming completely different for life [after experiencing ice].

‘‘I was scared of drugs when I was younger and I’ve overcome that fear but I had a very vast knowledge of what this can do to you and what the side effects could be. I think a lot of people go into it blind.’’

REMI counts himself lucky to have a lot of like-minded fans: ‘‘We’re not tryin’ to sell you a gimmick, we’re just tryin’ to do the music.’’

His group have their own DIY label: House of Beige. Asked what it was named after, REMI laughed.

‘‘Sensible J is beige, the inside of his house is beige, I’m beige, all of our friends are beige, and so it’s kinda like let’s make this house beige collective,’’ he said.

Being on an independent label, he said, was liberating as an artist.

‘‘Especially being an upcoming artist, it’s quite difficult to come up with the major labels,’’ REMI said.

‘‘We had the offers and it was all very nice and all that, but at the same time you can get yourself in so much trouble. We’ve already seen how much you have to spend on a record. The beauty of this is we pay it and, yes, it’s expensive – and that’s why we work day jobs – but we pay it and then we don’t owe anybody any money.

‘‘If you do it with a label it’s like a bank. You have to pay all that back but at a very small percentage of money you’re earning.

‘‘I think it’s also the freedom to say whatever you want. I’m trying to make music that speaks to me and my friends.

‘‘A major label might stop us from appealing to our chosen audience.

‘‘My favourite part of the music industry is doing what I love with people that I f—king care about.’’

REMI, Sensible J and Dutch will be playing Newcastle’s Small Ballroom on Thursday, June 26. Tickets are $21.45 and can be purchased at tickets.oztix南京夜网.au. See page 35 of today’s Herald for your chance to win one of double passes to REMI’s show.

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