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All Songs +1: Rejjie Snow Talks Black-Irish Identity, Relationships And Bad Rap

Advisory: This interview contains profanity.

Rejjie Snow takes pride in being an anomaly. An Irish-born rapper with a world perspective, outspoken views and jazz-inspired beat selections, Rejjie, born Alexander Anyaegbunam, has always been an outlier.

"I had a different outlook growing up where I grew up 'cause, as you say, I grew up listening to techno music. With making hip-hop I've got a different perspective and experience," Rejjie says through a mild, omniscient accent. "When I first started making music I was just trying to be super American and nothing about that was like myself."

<em>Dear Annie</em>
/ Courtesy of the artist
Courtesy of the artist
Dear Annie

Rejjie's debut album Dear Annie, released under 300 Entertainment/Honeymoon, finds the rhymer grappling with racial politics and love connections in a cohesive way that might surprise some fans. Tracks like "Rainbows" and "23" have the ability to sound both larger than life and deeply personal. This 20-track debut, with features from Amine, Jesse Boykins III and Dana Williams, boasts beats by Rahki, a frequent collaborator of Kendrick Lamar, Mac Miller and Eminem.

But it's taken a lot for the 24-year-old to get to this moment. From crashing on couches to garnering clicks with the poignant and melancholy Rejovich EP in 2013 to touring with Madonna to almost getting a film degree, Rejjie's life path, like his creative process, hasn't been clear cut.

Before Dear Annie's official release, Rejjie checked in with NPR Music for a chat on All Songs +1.Rejjie talks about themes of the album, finding his identity and getting in where he fits in amid rap's strange landscape. — Sidney Madden

Read interview highlights below and listen to the full conversation at the audio link.

On growing up in Dublin and finding himself through music

Yeah, I think I was kind of struggling with my identity. I didn't know which kind of role to play growing up because I was always the black kid to everybody and then I was always trying to just be this Irish kid, which I am. I was super confused, I guess. But as I've gotten older, I've come to realize who I am in my DNA and my roots, and I just have this super-proudness now and I'm fearless with what I do now — that being my skin color and what comes with that and stuff. I feel now like you can hear that in my music and that's a good thing because it just shows growth within myself.

On making music that's cinematic

I really tried to make it like a movie. I guess I'm really inspired by movies. I studied film in college, so that's something that's a passion of mine and I always tried to mix both worlds — the music and film ideas and that visual side. I think if you marry those two worlds, it makes the music so much better, I think. When you make an album that should be what it is, an experience and something that can obviously be enjoyed as well through music, but also visually as well.

On mainstream hip-hop being corny

I've just never really gravitated towards the stereotypes with hip-hop and the perceptions and what comes with rapping. I've just always been more into the geeky kind of stuff, people like MF Doom and the samples he uses that were jazz samples and stuff. For me, I've always been more into jazz and stuff like that 'cause that's kind of the first music that I heard growing up and it's the one that inspired me the most.

On rapping outside of his comfort zone

With ["Annie"] Rahki, from the get-go, he tried to get me out of my comfort zone and rap a little bit faster. So when he first made the beat, I was a little bit scared of it because, to rap at that pace, I wasn't really into it. But I got more into it and just kind of like flowed organically and the song became the song. Yeah, it's one of my favorite songs on the record.

Me being from Dublin, being into the things I'm into ... I just feel like when I came to America and even when I went to school here, I was just something new and people hadn't seen somebody like me before. My story fascinated them so, I guess, it just creates a different kind of energy and in the studio that's good. I feel when you share experiences with people it just makes for better music.

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Rodney Carmichael is NPR Music's hip-hop staff writer. An Atlanta-bred cultural critic, he helped document the city's rise as rap's reigning capital for a decade while serving on staff as music editor, culture writer and senior writer for the defunct alt-weekly Creative Loafing.
Sidney Madden is a reporter and editor for NPR Music. As someone who always gravitated towards the artforms of music, prose and dance to communicate, Madden entered the world of music journalism as a means to authentically marry her passions and platform marginalized voices who do the same.