On March 28, 2022, Nigerian star, Rema took to his Instagram page to host a live session, during which he addressed the absence of Afrobeats artists from his debut album, Rave and Roses.
Rema says that he only collaborated with his friends on 'Rave and Roses': Good or bad? [Pulse Editor's Opinion]
Rema's creative principles is his own, but the place of ego is unmissable in his sentiment.
He says, "I know people might be like, 'Oh sh*t, why does Rema not have an Afrobeats artist on his album?' I would say this: no feature on my album was based off uh, 'hey label, I need an artist or I need an international collab,' no. Nothing like that. Everything was organic. Every artist in my album is my friend.
"I don't really like to make music with you if we're not actually cool. I would not make music just to appease the fans, just to look like we're not fighting. No bruh, it has to be organic. No feature on my album was forced or like me trying to look international or cross boundaries. Nah, I already crossed that in 2019.
"So it's not me trying to be like, 'Oh sh*t, I need this feature to be....' Nah bruh... Every feature on my album is based off mutual respect, mutual friendship, close friendship... Like me and [Chris Brown] were at the house playing video games or at basketball or whatever, then we hopped in the studio. We are cool...
"Me and Lil Nas, we're cool. I make music with people I rock with, people I chill with. Everybody, we're cool. But I will not force an Afrobeats feature if we're not cool. We have to chill to create them bangers... I will not go to the studio to appease a fanbase. I'll create music because I f*ck with you and f*ck with me, you know."
You might remember...
Less than five days ago, Rema released his debut album to fanfare and celebration across social media.
In a review of the album, Pulse echoed the views of many, when it noted that, "'Are You There' is a low hanging fruit that could have worked better with a Timaya or Patoranking feature. 'Oroma Baby' and 'Love' were screaming for Wizkid. While more than one song required a Tekno reference. But Nigerian artists seldom want to collaborate with each other these days. Everybody is chasing an international hit."
Was Rema right or wrong for his take on collaboration?
He's right to say that he can only collaborate with his friends. Everybody has their creative process and they must stick with it, or they risk falling below their usual standards of excellence. There was a rumour that Kanye West would randomly send certain people out of the studio during the Donda studio sessions for 'bad energy.'
'No dey force vibes' is a core value of this generation. And excellence comes in places where positive energy, mutual respect or competition thrives.
However, we must note four things;
- Is Rema then saying that he's not cool with any Afrobeats artist? Or is he saying that he's not cool enough with any Afrobeats artist to collaborate with them?
- In the past, has Rema only collaborated with Afrobeats artists/figures that he's friends with? Only Rema can answer that.
- Does that also mean that Rema will rather be friends with international artists, and is more comfortable with asking them for features? This might make sense. Rema might feel like he's chasing international fronts now, because he has conquered Nigeria. That means he might aspire to international acts more than Nigerian acts. It could also mean that he's not friends with the superstar Nigerian artists that he would consider collaborating with. It could also mean that he would be more open to rejection from an international artist than from a Nigerian artist, who will wear it like an emblem of pride, while he tells anybody who has ears, that he rejected a Rema feature.
- Do you really have to be friends with certain artists before you can collaborate with them? Groundbreaking collaborations have happened between artists who have never met. In the 90's and 2000's, some artists made hits together, but didn't meet. For example, B.o.B featured Hayley Williams of Paramore on 'Airplanes' in 2009, but the never met during recording or video shoot. Around a year later, only met for the first time as they were about to thrill fans at the MTV Video Music Awards. But that was the old days, when labels and A&Rs used to control artists. Now, as noted during the opening soundbites of Drake's 'Pound Cake,' artists mostly have creative control of their music. It also means that they control how the music is made and mostly control who they make it with. That said, you can also collaborate with people over mutual respect and what you think they can contribute to your record. It's called A&R. Now, we can't blame Rema because he might not be comfortable with the prospect of the competitive energy that certain artists might bring to the table, and that's fine. But how about others who would see it as a privilege to feature on a track with a young king, who was humble enough to request a feature? From what this writer knows, a lot of veterans reserve high praise for Rema. And it's only fair. We're not asking Rema to collaborate with everybody, but part of being a fantastic A&R is knowing the perfect featured artist for a particular record, beyond your circle of friends.
A lot of people who really know Rema speak affectionately about him. They speak of his maturity and personality. Some also speak of his latent moments of minute egotism.
This might be Rema's way of simply avoiding uncomfortable scenarios that Nigerian artists - especially when their peer asks them for a feature - unleash at will. But he needs to realize that he will be at the top for a very long time. And a lot of people know that.
For that reason, it's unlikely that the Nigerian artists - we mentioned in our review - will turn down a Rema feature, or sleep on the opportunity to feature on Rema's record.
At the root of Rema's reluctance is a weird mix of avoiding problematic artists, creative principles and ego. His rationale is compelling, but the role of ego is simply unmissable in his sentiment.
Documented history in contemporary Nigerian music has taught us that a lot of Nigerian artists don't want to ask for a feature because they don't want to be 'that guy' who asks for a feature. They want to be the one that gets asked for a feature.
Let's not kid ourselves, when you get to a level, there are certain Ls that you can - and should - avoid. Artists are petty and vain. Some random artist will brag to someone that they turned down a Rema collaboration, if it truly happens.
And he made a mistake: The desire of someone like this writer, who feels like Wizkid, Peruzzi, Patoranking, Timaya or Burna Boy, might have elevated the quality of certain records is not about 'proof of unity.'
'Proof of unity' will be good. But this is mostly about the potential for certain records to be even better than they already are. Just imagine Wizkid on 'Hold Me.'
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