Earlier this morning, Nigerian music critic, Joey Akan asked a key question on his Twitter page (@JoeyAkan), ‘Is Rema alté?’
It's a question we've all been asking.
The responses he got to this question ranged from pretty damning to very dynamically answered. Meanwhile on June 7, 2019, during the recording of the latest episode of Loose Talk Podcast featuring DRB Lasgidi (BOJ, Teezee and Fresh L) the originators of alte, the issue came up.
Pulse Senior Editor and host of Loose Talk Podcast, Ayomide Tayo triggered the issue and speculated that Rema actually claim to be alté.
BOJ disagreed and he had a good point. Alté is an intimate circle of people who relate based on their shared values, similar lifestyle choices, similar beliefs and ideals.
BOJ’s group member, Teezee was measured with his take. He opined that "lifestyle-wise," Rema might be alte, but those lifestyle choices are a natural reflection of the generation Rema finds himself. This then leads to the question…
What is alté?
While this question can only be sufficiently answered by intimate members of the movement, we can define alté as an avant-garde Nigerian movement that places an emphasis on freewill and a refusal to act or in the way that society deems ‘appropriate.’ They have shown that ‘good’ or ‘beauty’ could be found in anything.
The movement impacts fashion and style, lifestyle choices, music, interests and so forth. While certain sounds are peculiar to alté acts, alté is not really a genre of music. Alté acts make music across different genres and styles – a focal point of the freewill that is peculiar to the movement.
Alté fashion and lifestyle are peculiar to people influenced by western culture and natural to Generation Z
During that Loose Talk Podcast episode, and after Teezee had finished dropping his opinion, the discussion briefly piqued on how sound and genre are sometimes era-based. They were right; Hip-Hop culture in the late 80’s and early 90’s influenced lifestyle choices, fashion, style and even business.
After Teezee made his point and during the discussion of era-based fashion and music, BOJ realized that Rema being an 18-year-old means he was born in year 2000 – he was perplexed.
To a lot of liberal millennials (especially those influenced by UK/Yankee pop culture) and Generation Zers (people born after 1995), dreaded or crazy hairstyle, fashion and style that society considers ‘terribly matched,’ dark-coloured outfits, interest in horoscope, interest in emo or retro music, liberalism to drug consumption, and other avant-garde concepts are natural to them.
The aforementioned things we consider 'alte' are just normal on London streets. Even though things we grow on influence us, each generation has something unique and peculiar to it.
Late Generation Xers (people born between mid-60's and early 80's) who grew in the 80’s had an interest in brightly colored outfits and conspicuously styled hair. Millennials enjoyed a lot of retro-fashion (pencil pants, boot cuts and Ray Charles-esque sunglasses) and championed the style switch in Hip-Hop and pop music.
Generation Zers are more liberal than millennials. They like moody/emo/trap music and are more emotionally sensitive. They also like expressing themselves because new parents (their parents) are more liberal. They encourage more freewill and expression than old parents. This is a shift from millennial reality.
Is Rema alté?
Rema was born in year 2000. He is bang in the thick of Generation Z existence. Thus, his hairstyle, dark-coloured outfits, funny choices of earrings and necklace, and interest in emo music (his song ‘Why’) are just peculiarities of era he finds himself.
Teezee was right. Rema might seem alté with his lifestyle and fashion choices, Generation Zers might gravitate towards him and his music as evidenced by his performance at Homecoming 2019, but that doesn’t make him alté. These things are just an incidence of nature. Rema is only living as naturally ordained.
As for his music, Rema is the new heartthrob of Nigerian mainstream. He is like an act that appeals to both alté and shepeteri. His self-titled EP is sonically experimental, lyrically sparse and genre-flexible – all elements of alté.
Yet, his biggest single at this time, ‘Dumebi’ is core afrobeats and far from alté. Nonetheless, what I feel is his best song, ‘Why’ is basically a trap/emo song from the generation of SoundCloud rap. He sounds like XXXTentacion on the song.
In the end, Rema might embody a few traits that make people call him alté, but alté might be doing him an injustice. It might also be an ignorant statement. Rema is not alté, he is simply a Generation Zer living.
However, he is free to choose his own crowd and what he identifies as.