Rejjie Snow has made quite the name for himself since signing to 300 Entertainment in 2016. The Irish rapper has garnered an international fan base by thinking outside the box and making music that is truly genre-spanning — a feat that can sometimes be difficult in the world of hip-hop.
With his first full-length album, Dear Annie, now out in its entirety, the Dublin native’s just getting started. “I feel like I’ve gotten better at making music,” he tells Billboard over the phone, before hopping on a plane from Munich to London. “Some of the songs on Dear Annie are three years old, so it’s kind of weird to go back to songs and work on them again, but of course I wanted to do that because every song has its own value and purpose.”
“I’m just really excited to make the next album,” he adds. “I feel like I’ve really found my sound and know how to make an album now,” he quips. “Figuring that out is something all in itself, because it’s not a mixtape or an EP.”
During the process of creating his 20-track debut, the artist born Alex Anyaegbunam really began to find his voice. Personal lyrics began trickling out of him, which is a strange feeling for someone who’s not used to opening up. “I always wanted to have Rejjie be a separate entity but Alex kind of creeped in, and I found myself talking about a lot of things that I went through, which isn’t a bad thing,” he explains. “I’m happy it came out that way—it makes for better, more relatable music. It’s more real.”
Billboard caught up with Snow to chat about Dear Annie, finding his true voice and why he’s so excited to put out his next album.
Your debut album, Dear Annie, is finally out in its entirety. How does it feel?
I feel really happy because it’s everything I’ve been building up towards. Seeing the response and reaction of people I’ve never expected to be into it has been really cool.
You released the album in three separate parts. What made you decide to release it this way?
That was done from the label’s side. I guess it was a strategic move. I was kind of taken aback at first, and was like, “Nah, that’s not gonna work,” because I’d never seen anybody do it before. But they just wanted to slowly feed people songs, because 20 songs is a lot of music, and with the way the album was made, it didn’t really matter to me if the songs were leaked.
What made you decide to make such an extensive debut album?
Yeah. [Laughs.] I think just with the anticipation, I feel like people made it a lot bigger of a deal than it was. I made most of the songs in the last six or seven months, so I guess it was more about finding the right headspace to really nail down the songs. Other than that, it was a simple process. I’m just really happy it’s out there, because now I have more time to really create better music and more ideas, and that’s all I’m really focusing on now.
But I’m glad I have this album out. Before that, I was just kind of going through the motions and floating around. The album is like my little baby.
A baby that’s 20 tracks!
Yeah, I actually wanted to include more! But I guess the people ain’t down.
It’s interesting, I think that has to do with our current culture and the way people listen to music. Back in the ‘90s and before that, people were putting out double albums, and that would be unheard of these days. People consume music in bite-sized pieces.
As a musician it’s kind of confusing, because I don’t know how to navigate through that. But yeah, the way music is consumed is like proper fast food. Especially hip-hop. It’s so easy to make hip-hop now that the appreciation for craftsmanship and artistry isn’t there. I guess it’s more obvious when you do something different, as opposed to just follow, kind of like sheep.
You definitely made yourself stand out on this album. It’s referred to as “genre-spanning,” and it really is — it’s unlike anything else out there right now. Was that a conscious effort?
It was subconscious. For the most part, all the sounds came quite naturally to me. Without me trying too hard, it came out of me. The pop sounds are the influences I wear on my sleeve. Growing up in Dublin, you’re exposed to so much music, and a lot of it isn’t hip-hop. So subconsciously, that music is still in me and it’s evident on the album, because I tried to take it to a weird place. It’s a hip-hop album, but I wanted people to have a different kind of experience than they’re used to. I feel like it’s my responsibility to push boundaries and do different shit.
It’s imperative to make yourself stand out with all the music coming out these days, but did you ever feel nervous that people wouldn’t respond positively to your sound?
Yeah, I still get nervous and have anxiety with everything going on, which I hope is normal. A lot of it was switching off the digital space and knowing exactly what I wanted to say. I was also reassured from my family and friends. That’s what really got me to finish the album and make it what it is.
Who is “Annie?”
She’s a fictional character that stems from my childhood. When I was a kid, my sister had an Annie doll — from the play [Annie] — and I remember it scared me. I’d have nightmares. So she represents all these different feelings. I kind of related it back to one character.
I feel like every album needs a focus point. The album cover visually represents that really well.
Annie may be a fictional character, but your lyrics seem pretty personal. What’s your writing process like?
Most of it’s personal. The last song, “Greatness,” I wrote in the perspective of my friends. It was never my intent though.
If it wasn’t intentional, how did the personal stuff come out?
I’ve got my personal struggles, and when I try to vent, music is that for me now. I’m able to talk about my struggles through music, which I’m cool with now. It takes a lot for me to open up on a personal level to my friends, so to do it to the world takes a lot of… balls. I was surprised how it all came out. It all came at once, but there were still songs there, it wasn’t just me spewin’ thoughts. I think those two worlds, sonically and lyrically, married each other very well.
Were you surprised by that?
Not surprised, more like, “Why did it take me so long?” Because I put out two albums before Dear Annie, and they just weren’t hittin’, and obviously I didn’t run with it. This time I really focused up, and it was interesting to see how effortlessly it can flow out of you. It was cool.
It must have felt liberating.
For sure. It still gives me goosebumps when I hear certain songs.
With the full album now out, what’s next for you?
I’m gonna tour the record in America, and am really just trying to make more. I studied film in college, so I want to do more visual stuff — I feel like that’s where my true passion is. Music has served as a gateway for other things I do; I paint as well. It’s an exciting year ,and hopefully a lot of opportunities to come. I’m trying to keep it movin’ and take it day by day. I’m also trying to spend more time with my friends and family — that’s really important to me, because I’ve been on the move so much lately; I got kind of sidetracked.
I’ve got the next album concept and am excited to bring it to life. I think it’s going to be my best work yet. I’m in a real creative headspace right now.
How much of this new album has been written?
Nothing has been written so far. I feel like I just work in my head. The idea is being a black man living in a white man’s world. It’s going to be fictional. I want to ideally do a short film before the music comes out. I’ve got a lot to get off my chest that I feel like I can tell in a really cool, different kind of way.