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Five Years of Rema: Raves, Roses & Endless Bangers

“Another banger.” Since Rema’s full-fledged, subversive emergence on the 22nd of March 2019, fewer artiste intros have evoked stronger reactions in the hearts of listeners.

Rema.

Born Divine Ikubor, Rema had garnered a following in Benin City before signing under the Mavin Records imprint, Jonzing World. He was one half of a duo, the other half being Alpha P. The larger industry was ready for the advent of a new wave of young talents, and Rema was distinctive in artistry and branding. However, his arrival was not without reservations and comparisons.

‘Dumebi’, Rema’s major label debut and the lead single of his self-titled debut EP, brimmed with youthful exuberance. Catchy, infectious and laidback, it would go on to be one of the biggest Nigerian records of 2019. Not long after, Rema unveiled visuals for ‘Iron Man’. It was an early indicator of Rema’s range, coupled with the trap leanings in another ‘Rema’ EP record, ‘Why’. While ‘Dumebi’ attracted reservations for purported incoherence, people were quick to point out the Indian influences in ‘Iron Man’. As the past five years have shown, none of these would stop Rema.

Standing out with his thick braids and mask, Rema further imprinted his infectious energy on the covers of his EPs. He cut a deflated figure on the ‘Rema’ EP cover, a wide-eyed teenager on the ‘Rema Freestyle’ EP cover and a zany, unhinged chap on the ‘Bad Commando’ EP cover. A distinctive teddy bear would eventually join the pantheon of Rema’s branding markers. In no time, he also raised an army of devoted fans known as the Ravers. With a solid label backing, Rema’s place in the cultural zeitgeist was bound to be sustainable.

Rema released the ‘Bad Commando’ EP in time for Detty December 2019, spawning the energetic record, ‘Lady’. This came fifteen days before the Headies 2019, where Rema capped his breakout year by clinching the coveted Next Rated Award. Gracing the same show with a performance, Rema assertively declared himself as “the future” upon receiving his award. That same year, he won the City People Music Awards for Revelation of the Year.

Rema.

With the world as his playground, Rema kickstarted 2020 with the two-pack release of ‘Beamer (Bad Boys)’ featuring Rvssian and ‘Rainbow’. Amidst the COVID-19 lockdown and the following months, Rema continued his onslaught with four more singles. Rema rolled out ‘Ginger Me’, ‘Alien’ and ‘Woman’ on consecutive Fridays between June and July 2020, while ‘Peace of Mind’ arrived in December 2020. The following year was a relatively quiet one for Rema with the release of just two singles, but it was merely the calm before the storm.

Rave & Roses Cover art.
Rave & Roses Ultra Cover art.

Rave & Roses, Rema’s revered debut album, was released on the 25th of March, 2022. With appearances by 6LACK and Chris Brown, it spawned an Afrobeats all-timer in ‘Calm Down’. The success of the album and its lead single gains more heft, considering the initial mixed response to the album. The album’s re-up, Rave & Roses Ultra, arrived over a year later. It was buoyed by the singles, ‘Holiday’, ‘Charm’ and the Selena Gomez-assisted version of ‘Calm Down’. At the time of writing, the music video of the original version of ‘Calm Down’ has amassed 579 million YouTube views. The music video of Selena Gomez’s version surpasses this with 830 million views. The record itself peaked at #3 on both the Billboard Global 200 and the US Billboard Hot 100 charts. On these metrics alone, ‘Calm Down’ has the strongest case for the biggest Afrobeats record of all time.

Rema and Selena Gomez.
Rema and Selena Gomez.

Performing at the Balon D’Or ceremony would be head and shoulders above other achievements for many other Nigerian artistes. Somehow, this is not the case for Rema. Having closed out the Rave era with 2023’s ‘RAVAGE’ EP, one cannot help but wonder what the future holds for Rema. There are many years to come, but Rema has possibly attained legendary status in his first half-decade.

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