Words With Remi

Remi! Melbourne hip-hop hero Remi’s second album Demons And Divas comes out tomorrow and WildnFree is very happy about this most excellent celebratory public holiday-worthy occasion. She spoke to Sir Remi Kolawole himself about the new record, and all the real as fuck issues he raises, like depression and racism and despair, just a few short hours after his excellency and his partner in beat-crime Sensible J hosted Rage.

WF: How was Rage?

RK: Oh my God, it was a childhood dream, I was tripping out, I lost my shit. I’m normally loud, but things like that make me uncontrollably loud. Not many people get to program Rage with their best friend. A lot of people go on and look so serious, like they’re not living out a childhood dream, but we tried to act the exact opposite. I hope it was as funny as we thought it was.

WF: The people will decide Remi, the people will decide

RK: They will decide it’s the worst Rage of all time, just wait til it gets to the Michael Jackson part.

WF: Now Remi, what the fuck is is this lyric from first track D.A.D – ‘This is likely to be taken out of context by press, just so they knock my confidence and make a brother depressed, but I’m already there mate, I’m already there.” I’m feeling upset to hear this and thought, “Oh no, we’ll have to address this straight away.”

RK: We explain later on in the song called Outsiders, which talks about press using clickbait, and skewed journalism to get a reaction. They’re not necessarily evil people, but they do it because they know they’ll get a reaction, and it can be more dangerous than what they anticipated. It’s rare that there’s an opposing argument against the press, it’s rare to have that balance in knowledge, so I’m trying to add to that balance from where I’m standing from.

WF: From my point of view as a ‘music journalist’, I’ve had some interesting reactions from artists. I’ve even been called ‘the devil’ goddamn it.  There’s seems to be a level of distrust and anxiety about what I might say, which I hate, it makes me sad.

RK: So it’s probably not you then! Some of my close friends are in the press, and they’ve told me Outsiders is their favourite song. They’ve said “I see this shit every single day, thanks for calling it out! It’s not like a shot at all press, but the one’s I’m talking about know exactly who they fucking are. It’s not a blanket statement.  I’ll be able to see who reported what I say correctly!

WF: Shit! I’m recording this for real and writing it word for word!

RK: *laughs* The mind games are so deep!

WF: Now Remi, I’m concerned, if you’re depressed and struggling, we’re ALL FUCKED. What is going on? I’m upset that you’re depressed and struggling.

RK: *sniggers a little in surprise* “What do you mean?!”

WF: “Because come on! You’re Remi! You’re on top of your game! And you’re struggling? What the fuck?!’

RK: That’s just people, I’m just people. That’s the good thing about releasing the songs so far, a lot of people can relate. It’s hard for some people to understand that a person like me could feel like you do, which makes you feel abnormal, like no one else is depressed.

That’s fucking bullshit, everybody gets sad. You can’t be happy all the time. I just happened to be extra sad when I was writing this album, so I felt it was important to put these feelings out and make sure we all talk about it. There’s so much stigma, it’s so hard to talk about it and its so hard to accept we’re all the same.

WF: Which is exactly why I love the line in Substance Therapy – “Really I’m fine, I’m fine,  when realistically that’s me saying I’m lying, I’m dying” Jesus Remi, that gets to the heart of it all, and it’s especially incredible for a man to say it, so go you.

RK: It’s kind of strange, I wrote that song about a really close friend of mine at the same time we released Raw X Infinity, the song was an off-cut of that album. Since then, we’ve been through similar things, I went through everything he’s gone through, not for the same reasons, but we had the same way of dealing with things. It’s funny, if you listen to the first version of the song,  it sounds like someone’s talking about it, whereas the second version it sounds like you’re going through it. I was glad I was depressed enough at the time I could make it sound authentic. In hip-hop, that’s really important when you’re talking about these issues because you can smell fake, if someone’s making shit up you can tell its sooky la la,  but this is some deep shit.

WF: I’m so interested in musicians’ experiences of depression and mental health, so many more people are talking about it now. What’s your take?

RK: It’s hard for me to comment, I know a lot of musicians have a depressive nature because they spend so much time alone in their heads, because it’s part of your job, analysing yourself, and practicing alone all day. But, a lot of people spend time in offices staring at fucking computers all day, surrounded by people, but they’re all alone in their own heads going through shit.

WF: Yes, that’s me!

RK: We hear about it more with musicians because of their writing, we feel things, so you’re more likely to hear from us. It’s such a taboo to talk about it, but we’re all feeling the same way, yet musicians talk about it more. Depression is universal, men have it, abd find it hard it talk about it, or people in the queer community have it, but don’t have the option to talk about it. It’s important for me to support the idea it’s okay to talk about it.

WF: Tell me about Lose Sleep ft Jordan Rakei . I’m just a white girl from the outer-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, so I don’t know much, but I’d love to hear more about your experiences of being a guy in Australia with an African heritage. 

RK: That song is one of many example of how the black experience, or the people of colour experience, is about expressing yourself and being heard. A lot of our D.A.D merch includes a balaclava with no mouth on it, the reason is, every time we paint someone in a certain light, we put a criminal mask on them, but we don’t allow them to explain what it’s like for them.

As a person of colour, I get told that I’m crazy, that what I experience is wrong. How can you tell someone else what they’re feeling? I’m just learning that now. There’s so much struggle I’m surrounded by now, so I can only listen and figure out why we’re hurting. Lose Sleep is about how we paint people in a oppressive way, and how it’s so easy for us to stay silent. That’s why that saying  ‘keep calm and carry on’ pisses me off. No, that’s fucked up. Talk about it, be loud, don’t accept that.

WF: Agreed. Never be silent. Speaking about silent, you’ve got some many great collabs on this album, Silentjay, Sampa The Great, Baro, plus of course WildnFree’s beat icon Sensible J. 

RK: We wanted to experiment, so we looked at people all around the world, but when the album got more personal, and it became apparent how many talented people we were surrounded by at home, we thought “Fuck that, lets show what we have here.” Thats the best thing, everyone is family.

WF: That’s why I love Melbourne music, it’s so rich, there’s so much to talk about it. Silentjay does such a great job on Contact High/Hi/I, what a beautiful singer.

RK: Yes, he’s amazing, plus my sister Laurie sings on Move On, she kills that, she’s fucking amazing. I was so  lucky to have moment.

WF: Now, the banner in the city, what the fuck.

RK: *sounds deadly serious* I don’t know shit! I was outside Darwin in an Aboriginal community, and a friend sent me a text saying,  “What’s the deal with this banner?” And I was like, “What the fuck do you mean?” Honestly, I can’t comment.

WF: Remi has NO COMMENT. Okay then, tell me about your tour. I’ve only seen you live performing on the counter at Northside Records to be honest. 

RK: I love doing that! I’m excited about the tour. I love touring the most when we tour with family, We hope people like the album, they’ll have more time to hear it before they come to shows this time, so it’ll be less than a shock.

WF: Can I speak to my beat icon Sensible J I need to ask him how he comes up with beats that make me dance. 

RK: *Goes to get Sensible J, comes back without Sensible J* ..Sorry, he’s not available, he’s talking to his girl on the phone.

WF: Goddamn it Sensible J.

Okay, pre-order Divas And Demons right now so you wake up with it downloading on your phone tomorrow.  Tour dates below, or come watch him live tomorrow at 7pm, Northside Records on Gertrude Street.

Now watch Substance Therapy now to feel less fucking alone in all your pain:

with BARO
Supported by triple j, Niche, Pilerats, UNIFIED and House of BeigeFri 18th Nov – Karova Lounge – Ballarat
Fri 25th Nov – Railway Club – Darwin*
Sat 26th Nov – Rocket Bar – Adelaide
Wed 30th Nov – Transit Bar – Canberra
Fri 2nd Dec – Newtown Social Club – Sydney
Fri 9th Dec – Black Bear Lodge – Brisbane
Sat 10th Dec – Republic Bar – Hobart
Sat 17th Dec – Howler – Melbourne
*BARO not appearingBuy tickets here

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