Tuesday, 23 April 2024
EditorialEPs & MixtapesNigerianReviews

Rema Achieves Chaotic Brilliance On RAVAGE [EP Review]

Rema has always been one of the biggest innovators of his generation. He’s not the biggest on lyricism and topical nuance, but when it comes to the pure sound of his music—he’s a risk taker and a creator. And it’s on RAVAGE EP, his fifth project that this pays off the most.

We’re currently in a climate where everyone wants to be a pioneer. Front, left, right and center our artists are slapping labels on genres they claim to create, which in reality are only slightly tweaked versions of previously existing subgenres of music. Rema isn’t any different in his ploy of calling his music, Afro-Rave but perhaps what differentiates him is his self awareness that his music is inevitably a variant of Afrobeats and it isn’t something he can run away from.

Rema has always infused external sonic influences into his unique brand of music. Persian vocals that are common in Indian soundscapes being the most prominent ingredient especially. It’s no mystery why his music has been incredibly successful in that particular market and why he sold out a stadium in the particular demographic. So you can’t take away the fact that Rema is a sonic innovator and it’s more than evident on his new EP more than his debut album, in fact. Rave & Roses was a good album, but Rema was more conservative and less experimental with his sound on it.

On RAVAGE EP, Rema is at an all-time level of confidence and still riding high on the success of Calm Down and the international impact the song has had in pushing Afrobeats to the next level. And it shows in the music, as he’s willing to take more creative risks because of the momentum he has on his side. This results in his best project yet as an overall, cohesive listening experience and one where he’s also relentlessly dynamic as an artiste.

Rema 'RAVAGE EP' Cover Art.
Rema ‘RAVAGE EP’ Cover Art.

DND and Smooth Criminal are the mainstream-leaning, heavy hitters of the EP and on these songs Rema treads the line of Hyper-pop, a more maximalist form of pop music that embraces avant-garde aesthetics, grandiose production and elements of electronic music, house and Hip-Hop. Hyper-pop isn’t exactly uncharted territory for Afrobeats acts, as it’s one that’s occasionally explored, especially in the previously bubbling altè scene but it’s quite rare for a popstar to be doing it on such scale, across a pop-leaning project.

What’s even more impressive is how Rema manages to find the right balance of edginess in the chaotic nature of the music and still create resonance, so as not to alienate listeners. Don’t get it twisted, in its nature this would still be an acquired taste for huge portions of the mainstream, but the fact that this EP would create a resonant moment nonetheless and churn out a hit song is a testament to Rema’s innovation.

On both songs, Rema is dynamic with Hip-Hop cadences and rhymes that alternate between melodic rapping and speed singing. It’s the sort of abstract delivery that could pass as altè and comfortably places the song in the realms of hyper-pop, but the production despite being very grand, immersive and maximalist—is still very lamba-oriented and functions well in bridging the gap, giving the songs mass appeal. Credit must be given to the 2 producers at the helm—Priimebeatz and London, who in my opinion are the best producers of the new generation. It’s no wonder why the EP has otherworldly production.

Whilst he’s mostly talking his shit on DND, Smooth Criminal and Trouble Maker and continuously emphasizing the point that he’s the next big thing in Afrobeats with vocal texture runs that draw inspirations from past legends like Wande Coal and Wizkid—on Don’t Leave and Red Potion, he embarks on an erotic, hedonistic adventure instead. It’s familiar territory for him and something he’s explored at length in the past, but it’s more compelling here because the writing is more honed and precise and the production is as edgy as the topic.

It’s very difficult to listen to this project and not feel the music in its raw, sonic form reverberate and pass through you because of the chaotic excellence of the music and how immersive the mixing and mastering is. It’s one thing to have great production and it’s another to have sound engineering that does justice to the production, so much that it makes you not just hear the music but feel it course through your arteries and veins also. That’s what the music on this EP achieves.

In this writer’s opinion, this is Rema’s best project because it ticks all the boxes. Sonic cohesion, smooth track-to-track transitions, incredible production, great deliveries and impressive writing from Rema and the intention to create something truly unique, that it feels like an experience—a journey into an actual soundscape. This is edgy, chaotic music at its best and sadly, it won’t be for everyone.

But there is a moment for everyone, at least.

Final Verdict:

Sonic Cohesion: 1.8/2
Unharried Transitions: 1.5/2
Expansive Production: 2/2
Songwriting & Delivery: 1.7/2
Optimal Track Sequencing: 1.8

Total: 8.8/10

This review is written by T.J. Martins, an avid lover of music.

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