Irish rapper Rejjie Snow's not-so-straightforward climb to success

Irish rapper Rejjie Snow tells Ed Power about his thoroughly modern music career

REJJIE SNOW could be Ireland’s next music superstar. He’s toured with Madonna and is a close friend of Johnny Depp’s model/actress daughter Lily Rose (she’s even appeared in one of his videos). Plus he’s knocked Kanye West off the summit of the iTunes charts and is signed to one of the world’s hottest hip hop labels. It’s an impressive list of accomplishments for a 23-year-old from humble origins on the north side of Dublin.

Still, the journey to the top hasn’t always been straightforward. As a rapper in Dublin, the artist found the city’s tiny scene restrictive. But abroad in the US and Britain, he has had to confront prejudices against Irish people making urban music. To many, the concept is simply unimaginable.

“Not since 50 Cent was shot nine times has anyone faced as daunting an obstacle,” went a recent piece in the London Evening Standard, winding up for the punchline. “Rejjie Snow, is Irish.”

“It bothered me initially, “he says, speaking ahead of a performance at this weekend’s Electric Picnic. “I’m very self critical anyway. Having people love or hate your stuff — you’re really not doing your job unless you’re get that sort of response. So I’ve passed the stage of being annoyed by it.”

Snow, whose real name is Alex Anyaegbunam, has had a thoroughly modern career. He makes music all the time but his debut album, Dear Annie, has been years in the planning — with a firm release date yet to be set.

That’s not unusual in hip hop where artists often build their reputation with more informal mix tapes. Snow dropped his latest, The Moon and You, this summer and it became an immediate smash on Spotify. “It’s about trying to catch the moment,” he says. “That’s hard sometimes. I think this one does a decent job. It’s good to let people know what you are doing. I had a lot to get off my chest. People hadn’t heard a body of material from my for some time I didn’t want them to think I was slacking.”

The release included perhaps his biggest hit in ‘Purple Snow’, a collaboration with Chance the Rapper producer Cam O’B and Joey Bada$$, the hip hop superstar in the news for the wrong reasons with reports he cancelled several concerts after staring directly at last week’s eclipse.

“I wanted to cross the bridge between Dublin and America,” says Snow. “It thought it would be fun to bring those two worlds together.” Two million Spotify plays later, he has surely exceeded even his own expectations. Snow grew up in Drumcondra, the son of a Nigerian father and Irish mother. He was a sports prodigy, playing alongside future Ireland international Robbie Brady at St Kevin’s Boys.

However, performance was always his other great love, with his mother enrolling him at the Billie Barry Stage School when he was a child. His big break came when, as a teenager, he attended a Dublin Olympia Show by Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes and talked his way into duetting with the star. “People like him are a huge inspiration,” he says. “Pharrell….David Bowie…they refuse to be pigeonholed and are always thinking of the next venture.”

He’s been based for the past several months in Brooklyn, where he is signed to 300 Entertainment — the esteemed hip hop label also home to artist-of-the-moment Migos.

“It’s always good to have cool label-mates. I went with them [300] to make a point. I wanted to be around the best people I can be.”

He’ll probably move back to London in the near future — though his ultimate dream is to go back to Dublin. “I’d like to go back and soak it up and be inspired,” he says. “I’m looking forward to playing Electric Picnic. It’s different playing in Ireland because it’s where I’m from.”

  • Rejjie Snow plays at this weekend’s Electric Picnic


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