- Josh Crowe
Belgrave Music Hall:Rejjie Snow review
At only 23 years of age, Rejjie Snow has made great strides within the hip hop scene. Traversing this competitive field is not easy, yet Rejjie sails through it with natural stage presence and smooth as silk lyrics. In 2011 he secured an athletic scholarship in Florida with the goal of becoming a professional football player. A year after graduating he had a change in direction, choosing to study film and design at Savannah College in Georgia. Despite leaving after just one semester, it is evident that Rejjie’s time spent over the pond gave birth to some of his most experimental syncopated jazz infused songs such as ‘Nights Over Georgia'. Shortly after returning to Ireland the MC released his debut EP Rejovich  that reconstructed our perception of hip-hop. The jazz infused record enchanted the likes of MF DOOM and Kendrick Lamar, both of whom he has supported in his hometown of Dublin.
His 2013 success was followed by his official debut single ‘All Around World’ in 2015, receiving 500,000 hits in the first week of its release. A year later, Rejjie was signed by the label 300 Entertainment with the aim of finishing his highly-anticipated debut album Dear Annie which should be released sometime this year. The labels CEO Lyor Cohen was full of praise for Snow, saying his work is “not just vital to the industry, it's vital to the culture [of hip hop]."
In anticipation of his upcoming mixtape, I went to see Rejjie Snow’s sold out show at the Belgrave Music Hall in Leeds. Just seconds after walking up the stairs of the venue, I am tapped on the shoulder by a guy the same age as me. Without hesitation, he asks in a thick Irish accent, ‘are you here to see Alex?’. His forward approach takes me by surprise as he stares at me intensely, anticipating my answer. He is of course talking about Alexander Anyaegbunam, known to many tonight as Rejjie Snow. As we talk more it is clear that his direct line of questioning is a product of his raw excitement, an excitement that is ubiquitous in the expanse of the ever-growing crowd.
London based rapper Jesse James is the one who has the challenge of providing support for Rejjie tonight. To capture the energy of the crowd, he delivers a bass heavy set that doesn't work well with his sleepy tone. Being visibly frustrated at the crowd’s reaction, or lack of reaction, he kicks a bottle of water in the audience’s direction. Any chance of getting the crowd on his side are now long gone and there is a collective sigh of relief in the room as his set ends. A few moments after the sobering set, there is an intoxicating prelude of numbers like 'Redbone' by Childish Gambino, as well as 'KMT' by Giggs.
Rejjie Snow is the name that has been ringing from Dublin all the way to the US and tonight he is all ours. With no introduction needed he walks on stage donning a pair of Nike Air Max alongside a dark tee and a gold chain. He starts his set with breakthrough anthem '1992', sung with cough syrup thick delivery. He asks the crowd ‘is anyone drunk or high tonight, which one is it?’. He knows what the audience want to hear; the young MC then moves straight into 2016 release 'D.R.U.G.S.' A highlight of the set is Snow’s song 'Olga (1984)', the amalgamation of hard hitting lyrics and a jazzy backdrop are a stark reminder of just how good hip-hop is in its elementary form. Jesse James comes back on stage to perform a well thought out rendition of USSR, receiving a far warmer response from the crowd this time. Rejjie then seamlessly sends the audience into a frenzy of dance with the hit melody ‘Keep Your Head Up’. After a few songs, he starts to tease the audience with his much anticipated mixtape 'The Moon And You' held in a transparent sleeve. He then proceeds to throw a handful of the CD’s to members of the audience who have caught his eye throughout the night.
A more serious side to the Irish MC comes out later in the night when he performs his controversial release ‘Crooked Cops’. The song was released in 2017 on the day of Trump’s inauguration with Rejjie himself calling it ‘an anthem for the disaffected’. Each line is delivered with spitting passion, fusing razor sharp lyrics “black and white unite my rights, these crooked cops they hate my sight”. He addresses the audience directly, saying ‘I had to write this song because I was in America and I was black’. This poignant political tune shows a rawer side to Rejjie, one that suits him well. The contrast between this and 'Olga (1984)' is tangible, yet this will prove to be Rejjie’s dynamite; he is an artist who can produce variation while still sticking to his very specific style. I cannot wait to see what happens next.