Rema is a rising star who has gained much attention in the Afrobeats/Afrorave scene and the Nigerian native’s highly anticipated debut album is here. With around 3 million Instagram followers, tracks with big names like Skepta and FKA twigs, and the support of people like Barack Obama and Drake, there is plenty of attention and pressure on Rema to deliver a quality product.
To promote this record, he released three vibey singles and has been booked for both Strawberries & Cream and Wireless festival, describing the album as “… a piece of my soul to you,” on his Twitter.
The name ‘Rave & Roses’ is fitting for an album that focuses on anthems to dance the night away to or to seduce the women in his life. London is the main producer on the album and he provides that Afrobeats and Afrorave sound fans will expect, with other producers like Jaegen (Juice WRLD, French Montana) and Eddie Priest bringing the influence of other genres like Pop, Dancehall, and R’n’B.
The features on display also stand out whether that be the great vocals of 6LACK on ‘Hold Me,’ or the cold bars of AJ Tracey on the single ‘FYN.’
The album opener ‘Divine’ kicks things off in style as Rema gives us this dramatic tale of being protected by God during his mother’s pregnancy and then through the hardships of his own life. The impactful lyrics match the cinematic production with its use of a guitar and booming trap drums, alongside a simple, but catchy hook.
From here we get a lot of songs about getting intimate with a girl which varies from the bouncy instrumental and silky vocals of the single ‘Calm Down’ to tracks like ‘Dirty,’ which has a great bit of sax and synths in the mix, but lines about getting ‘sloppy sloppy’ aren’t exactly going to get couples in the mood.
‘Love’ shone through the use of melancholic brass adding to this tale of being with that special someone. Rema shows off his vocal inflections on the bridge and the more subtle production puts a greater emphasis on his smooth delivery. To put the cherry on the cake we get a bit of piano at the end, showing how top-notch work from London adds an edge to this LP.
The following track ‘Addicted’ took great influence from the 80s sound the Weeknd has been using of late, but not to its detriment. The use of autotune on Rema’s voice was a nice change of pace, as he gives this breathier delivery recounting a tale of a girl forcing him into the fast life. ‘Are You There?’ was another highlight, discussing the negativity in his country and how he wants to change things. With the effects of SARS widespread in Nigeria and his recent criticism of the Peoples Democratic Party, it’s no surprise to see a more conscious effort from Rema, and it’s done very well over a Dancehall influenced beat.
‘FYN’ with AJ Tracey is a summer banger to get you in the groove, using wind and string instruments expertly alongside the xylophone. And to close, ‘Runaway’ sees our protagonist running away with the girl no one wants him to be with, as the chilled, acoustic production brings proceedings to a close.
At almost an hour-long, this album has plenty to offer you and in terms of fitting the album title, it passes with flying covers. While a bit more variety in song topics could have exceeded my enjoyment of this album, there’s plenty of good music here to take away and this will be a project to dance those summer nights till the dawn.