Five minutes with REMI: “Fans can keep the gas, I’m trying to lower my emissions”

25th October 2018

If you’re curious about what the hip-hop scene in Australia is saying, then REMI is the ideal place to start. The duo, completed by rapper Remi Kolawole and producer Sensible J, are synonymous with Melbourne’s music scene; sistered by the city’s distinctive neo-soul patch. Beyond REMI’s delicately manicured claps, snaps and dance-worthy thumps, there is heat in the lyrics. Entwining with Sensible J’s handywork, Remi’s lyrics confront racial stereotypes and mental health with reflection and proactivity.

If you’re new to the duo, you might recognise Remi’s voice after lending it to projects by Jordan Rakei as well as Sampa the Great – the latter can be found on REMI’s new EP, ‘Black Hole Sun’. Following their previous releases, ‘Divas and Demons’, it’s a collaborative effort that has birthed their new offering, ‘Black Hole Sun’. REMI wrote and recorded ‘Black Hole Sun’ with Rwanda born and New Zealand based rapper Raiza Biza. Rapper Remi took some time to indulge us about the new EP and to dispel myths about Australia’s music scenes.  

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You guys obviously have a creative connection with Raiza Biza. How did you come to realise that this creativity demanded an entire collaborative EP?

The EP kind of just happened. Rai had flown over to Melbourne to record some stuff with [Sensible] J. While he was here he pulls out this ridiculous beat Black Milk had sent him and asked if if wanted to rap on it — I’ve been a fan of Black Milk since ‘Tronic’ so I was geeking out. It was a no brainer.

Check out our guest DJ mix from Funk Bast*rd

The demo we made over the beat was pretty trash, but the vibe was there. Rai hit us up maybe six months later saying that he had a whole beat tape from Black Milk and we should do the whole thing together. Everything from there was super organic. We got some of our friends on it; Sampa The Great and Baro. Black Milk rapped on it, Sensible J Mixed and curated the whole thing and it was done.

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‘Divas and Demons’ was a difficult collection of tracks, lyrically. After that period of writer’s block and the struggles you documented, could you describe the catharsis of writing for ‘Black Hole Sun EP’?

After the last album, I just went in my room and got caught in a cycle of feeling nothing was good enough. The dope thing about this EP is that it had to happen fast and it forced me out of that.

We were going to Europe so we needed to get it done before we left. On-top of that, Rai was flying back and forth from New Zealand to finish shit off and we didn’t want to waste money! As a result, deadlines were set and I was forced to let go. It’s been really good to release something that I’m proud of again.

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What’s your favourite lyric on the record?

Fans can keep the gas, I’m trying to lower my emissions.

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What would you like people around the world to know about Australia’s hip-hop scene; any artists we should know or misconceptions you’d like to dispel?

So many people you should know about. Avantdale Bowling Club (NZ), Sampa The Great, Kaiit, Silent Jay, Baro, Jace Excell, Cool Out Sun, Billy Hoyle and Man Made Mountain are just a few that have released some unbelievable and mind-blowing bodies of work. There are so many more coming up and it’s so exciting! As they arrive I’ll be telling you about them, I promise.

Common misconceptions that need to be dispelled are that we all look and sound like Crocodile Dundy. Not only does this continue to erase the existence of the First Nations people of this country — maintaining the whitewashing of their people, genocide of their culture  and theft of their land — but it erases all diversity. We have diaspora that is from all across Africa, India, Fiji, PNG, Vietnam, Iraq; the list is deep. All of these people have so much to teach the world, their own struggles, styles and flavour. That’s where the funk is at. That’s where the real shit is and as long as the world has a homogeneous view of where we’re from they’re gonna get a homogeneous sound. We know there’s more than enough of that.

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