By Ross Malcolm (@RossM98)
If you take a look at the world of the British hip-hop scene a couple years back, things look pretty scarce in terms of talent. As the ever-opinionated American rapper Azealia Banks put it, “no American rappers are looking to the UK for any sort of tips. Be as angry as you want to be. But facts are facts.”. Excluding the rapidly growing appeal for grime, the UK never had much to offer in rap. Up steps Rejjie Snow: an Irishman who has just dropped out a football scholarship in America to pursue a career in music that has led him to become one of the most established young rap artists to date.
The 24-year-old caught the attention of the masses when he released his first EP Rejovich, which immediately topped the iTunes hip-hop charts ahead of releases from massive artists like Kanye West (The Life of Pablo) and J. Cole (Born Sinner). Between 2015 and 2017 Snow dropped a handful of singles, feeding fans the breadcrumbs that lead up to his first full project in 2017, The Moon & You. The project itself was a little unfocused but it made one thing clear – Rejjie had a lot to say. On Dear Annie, instead of choosing to write about the intriguing story of his journey towards this album thus far, Snow instead opts for a deep introspection of his emotions and touches upon a particular feeling dealt with by many an artist – love. An abundance of this substantial album is directed towards his struggle to sustain a relationship for long and how he copes with this.
Opening tracks Hello and Rainbows have a feel-good funk production that resonates with Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. With a fresh style of high-cut delivery and a lazy flow, Rejjie sets the reflective tone of this project from the get-go. The theme continues throughout into 23, a laid-back rant about his previous lover and an outlook on his relationship insecurities while Mon Amour is a sour look back on his quarrels with ‘Annie’, despite his strong desire for reconciliation with her. It isn’t all doom and gloom, however; the album has its uplifting points such as Egyptian Luvr. Featuring exciting up and coming prospects like flow-specialist Aminé and the smooth voice of Dana Williams, Snow discusses the importance of cherishing what you have because of the unpredictability of the future. The album’s leading single brings a fresh style and tone to the table – Dana Williams’ R&B tone and Rejjie’s confident delivery intertwines perfectly with the production that takes influence from J Dilla.
The most striking facets of this album are the darker moments that appear. Beneath all the sparkling pianos and groovy bassline in Room 27, for example, Rejjie opens up about his suicidal thoughts and flirts with the idea of joining the infamous 27 Club – the list of musical greats who died at the age of 27. This is the artistic highlight of the project: it is a perfect contrast between Lewis Ofman’s bright and encapsulating production and Rejjie’s thought provoking lyrics and his most enthusiastic delivery on the album. It insinuates that deeply concerning and serious thoughts in a person are overshadowed by glamourised and pointless popular figures in society. The Rain is a statement of love and passion towards ‘Annie’, giving a nod towards modern jazz’s flag bearer King Krule and the dark tones of Tyler, the Creator. At the end of the album, ‘Annie’ gives the listener a look into what Rejjie has lost and what he craves to get back.
Rejjie takes a major risk on this album – exposing himself emotionally on his debut may burn him out creatively a bit too early on in his career. Despite this, the Irishman’s debut album shows a significant understanding of contrast and keeping his theme grounded. Although the tracklist is sizable, the project flows well and his delivery pairs perfectly with his deep outlook and analysis of love, depression, and insecurity. Dear Annie discusses sensitive and delicate issues but Rejjie stays true to his artistic integrity which is a vital quality for those few who ‘change the game’. This project is a decent benchmark for Snow in his career and if he can exceed the expectations set from Dear Annie, there are big things coming for the Irish rapper.