Australia's Remi On His New Album With Sensible J & Dutch 'Raw x Infinity'

Nigerian-Australian rapper Remi talks to Okayafrica about his forthcoming album with Sensible J and Dutch 'Raw x Infinity.'

The very same young man who turned listeners into fans with “Sangria” a year ago, recently scored feature album of the week on Australia’s top radio station Triple J. Yes, Nigerian-Australian rapper Remi and his longtime collaborators Sensible J and Dutch are about to release their latest offering, the deliciously bassy, sample-heavy Raw x Infinity. In the lead-up to the album launch and with an Australian tour set to kick off in late June, Remi chatted with us to shed a little light on what’s been good down-under.


Shiba for OKA: Let’s start from the beginning... how did you three meet, and how'd it come about that you’d want to make music together?

Remi: Sensible J and Dutch had been working together, producing beats for three to four years before I’d met them. When I first started rapping I was working retail with J’s girlfriend. One day she played their beats over the speakers and I lost my mind. Not long after that I went to J’s house and met him. We’ve been working on, and putting stuff out on our bandcamp since then.

OKA: Some of your family members are of African descent. How does that influence your lives culturally, and especially musically?

Remi: For myself, having a Nigerian pops has been character building to say the least! But musically, I’ve been surrounded by afrobeat since I was born, to the point where Fela was just some annoying shit that played in the background at family get-togethers. I didn’t really understand it as a kid, but growing up and making my own music, I’ve realised that it is mah fuggin genius! In that sense I’m super thankful for my up-bringing.

J’s family are all originally from Cape Town, South Africa, migrating to Australia in the 70s. His folks were in a band when they met, and there’s always been musical instruments around the house, which I guess helped him catch “the bug.” Also, playing him original music from Africa opened his ears to what else is going on around the world, musically, hence some of our “interludes” are quite heavy with the afrobeat rhythms. Dutch, was actually J’s neighbour when they were growing up, so maybe he caught some of the culture through J’s family!

OKA: What are some of your influences/favourite acts past and present?

Remi: Here we go... Stevie, J Dilla/Slum Village, D’Angelo, Radiohead, Fela, Common, Mos, Madlib, Jay Electronica, Oddisee, Karriem Riggins, Guilty Simpson, Flying Lotus, Avalanches, Erykah Badu and we hope it’s not too cliche but The Roots and in rap, Black Thought. To the point where we actually did a track on our first album called "Tribute to Tariq Trotter!"

OKA: So you’ve already dropped a video for "Livin’." What’s your philosophy in life and what has it been like, looking back on what it’s taken to get this far?

Remi: In the least douchey way possible, being happy man. You’ve got to be happy in what you’re doing, and all of us find that happiness in our music. Don’t get me wrong, music is one of the hardest industries to be successful in no matter how much you plot and scheme, practice etc. but once all the bull dust settles, we’re all 100% happy with the music we make no matter how it’s looked upon by the masses. That means everything, no matter what field you’re trying to excel in.

OKA: "Tyson" also just came out. Tell what creating that was like.

Remi: You know when people say you’re doing it for the love? It really felt that way with this clip! We shot the whole thing in a day, and I’m super unfit, so all the training stuff was RAW!!! I also got punched a fair bit (I won’t give too much away), but all the hits were legit, so the day after, I was pretty beat up. Totally worth it though haha. Everybody did a killer job though, Sensible J is super... well sensible, so he had it pretty easy. Dutch on the other hand really stepped it up, as it’s rare to see him skipping down pathways, burning incense with beads around his neck.

OKA: And Raw x Infinity? What can expect when the full album drops?

Remi: Raw x Infinity drops 6th of June, available on both iTunes and bandcamp. As for its content, we did it for music lovers. It’s very eclectic, jumping from straight hip-hop samples that’ve been chopped to shit, to afrobeat, to electronic. I know the guys are heavily influenced by Dilla’s "The Shining," and the way it combines live drums, samples and keyboards. This kind of SHINES through on our record... (we love dad jokes) Vocally the aim was really just to cover all spectrums, and reflect the stuff I and the team go through on a daily basis. Stuff like race, drugs (and their effects), how we’re told to live, chilling out, being unphased by others’ opinions and of course, rap just to rap!

OKA: How are you feeling about your upcoming Australian Tour? Nervous, excited, both? What are some of the other places you’d like to travel to?

Remi: Honestly, we’re just hoping for a solid attendance, as we don’t really fit the "Hip-Hop" mold in Australia, and our new stuff may be a little challenging for the masses. However we do have some forward thinking fans so hopefully that will out-weigh the "What the fuck is this?" factor! So basically we’re both nervous and excited, because it’s always dope to perform to people who appreciate your stuff! The dream is to be able to get well known enough to play some shows in Africa! I know I’ve got some family in Nigeria who reckon I should come through, and we heard Hiatus Kaiyote had a blast when they played at the Cape Town Jazz Festival! Apart from that we’re hoping to get to Europe at the end of the year, and possibly the U.S. so keep your fingers crossed and eyes peeled!

Look out for the 13-track 'Raw x Infinity' to arrive on bandcamp and iTunes on June 6th

Asa 'Lucid' cover.

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Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our Best Music of the Week column.

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Follow our SONGS YOU NEED TO HEAR THIS WEEK playlist on Spotify here and Apple Music here.

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6 Things We Learned About African Migration to Europe in 2019 From a New UN Report

UNDP representatives presented their "Scaling Fences: Voices of Irregular African Migrants to Europe" report last night at Okay Space. Here's what we found out.

Yesterday, Okay Space hosted a discussion between UN luminaries Ahunna Eziakonwa, Mohamed Yahya and OkayAfrica CEO, Abiola Oke about the new UNDP report, Scaling Fences: Voices of Irregular African Migrants to Europe. The report examines young Africans who are leaving their homes to make the dangerous journey to Europe for economic opportunities—not solely for asylum or to escape persecution. The evening was both enlightening and sobering, and the main findings may be a little different than what you might expect.

Immigration to Europe from Africa is roughly 90 percent lower than what it was in 2015.

In 2015, slightly over 1 million Africans left for Europe. In 2018, it was just over 100,000. However, the percentage of those who drown on the journey has increased. In 2015, it was 1.6 percent of that million, while it grew to 2 percent in 2018. Meaning just over 2,000 people died enroute in 2018 alone. It is a disturbing factor that, four years on, more people are dying proportionately than when the large migrations began.

Even though most of Africa is rural, most of the youth leaving the continent for economic reasons are from the urban areas.

85 percent of those who the report identified came from urban cities or towns, though only 45 percent of Africans overall live in those urban areas. This means that most of them are coming from regions with "relatively low levels of deprivation." Analysts believe the rapid urbanization of many African cities could be a contributing factor. Benin City, Nigeria, for instance, has urbanized 122 percent in only ten years. These cities cannot actually support the people—and their ambitions and talents—who live there. It plateaus and does not allow for further upward mobility.

Only 2 percent of those who left say knowing the dangers would have deterred them.

This means 98 percent would do it again, despite the knowledge of fatalities and difficulties in crossing. The appeal of elsewhere is greater than death. This realization is crucial for all nations to better comprehend the true elements belying migration, particularly for those that this report is concerned with. Of the 1,970 migrants from 39 African countries interviewed for the report, almost all of them are willing to face death for economic opportunities abroad than stay home. As most of the migrants had relatively comfortable lives at home, they are not migrating to flee death or persecution as with asylum seekers. This prompts great questions and led the report to look at the issue from four angles: home life in Africa, motivations for leaving, life in Europe, motivations for returning.

58 percent of those who left were employed or in school in their home country.

Not only that, in almost every demographic and country, those who left had a considerably higher amount of education than their peers. From Malu, those leaving had an average of five years of education, compared to one year with peers in their age group and two years for the national average. In Cameroon, those leaving had an average 12 years, their peers had seven and the national average of six. Even when broken down by gender, both men and women who leave have about nine years of education while the national average is five and three, respectively.

Though the average African family size is five, most of those who leave have an average family size of 10.

When asked, migrants said their main motivation to leave is to send money home. This information is important as it may impact the motivations for needing to leave. The report reasons that an increase in population may also be playing a role in the motivations to leave. It was also reported that those who go abroad and find work send an average 90 percent of their earnings to their families. Essentially, they are leaving existing jobs to live on 10 percent of their new wage, highlighting that working below minimum wage in Europe is more prosperous.

Though 70 percent of those in Europe said they wanted to stay permanently, those who were working were more likely to want to return to their home country.

Conversely, the majority of those who did want to stay in Europe were not earning anything, 64 percent of them, and 67 percent did not have a legal right to work. Over half of those who did want to return home had a legal right to work. Analysts reason that those who did want to stay would likely change their mind once they had an income. This correlation speaks to a significant relationship between work and migration permanence. It also underlines the claim that migration for this group is focused solely on economic results as opposed to social factors.


What was most striking about the event, however, was the strong feeling communicated in the space about exchanges between Africans regarding what needs to be done. The discussion did not only surround the facts and figures alone, but also the humanity behind understanding why people migrate. At one point, when addressing the crowd of various influential people on the continent and in the diaspora, Eziakonwa said "What are we missing here? What are we doing by leaving young Africans out of the development discussion? Our programs are clearly failing our African youth."

Later, Yahya responded to a question by stating there was certainly a cultural barrier in which Africans do not often address, listen to or respect the youth. "I can say by looking at you that no one in this room would be given a true say," he said. "This is clearly part of the issue." When asked what can be done by others, the response was to work to change the narrative, to focus on prosperity rather than charity and to provide better access and platforms for African youth to share their stories so that the idea of who migrants are shifts. And so we, as Africans, can better know ourselves.

Check out some photos from last night below with photos from Polly Irungu. Follow and share in the changing of that narrative via #ScalingFencesUNDP and #MyJourney.

Photo by Polly Irungu

Photo by Polly Irungu

Photo by Polly Irungu

Photo by Polly Irungu

Photo by Polly Irungu

Photo by Polly Irungu

Photo by Polly Irungu

Photo by Polly Irungu

Photo by Polly Irungu

Anjel Boris, Question Mark, 2019, Acrylic and posca on canvas, 133 by 7cm. Image courtesy of Out Of Africa and @artxlagos

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OkayAfrica is a media partner of ArtXLagos 2019.

In three years, ArtXLagos has successfully established itself as West Africa's premier art fair, cementing its reputation as a center of culture for the entire region. Since its founding by Tokoni Peterside in 2016, the art fair has attracted exhibitors, art buyers and members of the West African art scene and beyond—providing a platform for both emerging and established artists and playing a notable role in the global art ecosystem.

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