REMI and musical collaborator Sensible J have always been about making music with a purpose. In 2014 their politically charged debut album Raw x Infinity made a name for them as one of Australia’s most interesting musical acts. REMI’s music is all about truth, which means not shying away from issues like race or sexism. After two years in the works REMI’s second album Divas and Demons will be out this September and promises to be just as charged as the last.
Is the album finished?
I literally got it back from mastering on the weekend and listened to it for the first time last night. I’m really excited about it. It’s been two years between albums for us.
What can you tell us about it?
The main theme throughout the whole thing is relationship issues and your mental state of mind during dark places. That’s something I found not a lot of people talk about. I think especially out here it’s a little unexplored. I didn’t do it because of that, it was just what was on my mind and that’s what I had to write.
How did your music become so outspoken about social issues?
When I first started rapping it was because I liked rhythm. But then after a while of just rapping and focusing on flow it became time to say something real. Now it’s about my life and my friends’ lives. It’s stuff that people out here should hear and should be ready to hear and I think that’s why it’s important to say.
What’s the response been like?
As many people as I’ve infuriated by saying something—that same amount of people have told me what I said was true about their life. Polarising music is my favourite. I never want to be like “meh”. You want people to feel something and question things, or even just get mad.
Why do you think people are polarised by some of the things you rap about?
My mum put it to me that to a lot of over-privileged people losing some of their power feels like they’re being oppressed. People need to start realising that the oppressed aren’t mad because they want to swap places with the over-privileged—they know what it’s like to be on the bottom—they just want to be equal. Talking about women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and other minorities, the common consensus across all oppressed people is that no one cares about being on top because they know how it feels to be on the bottom. Once we get that through to people we’ll be okay. Once people realise that everyone’s just trying to be on a level playing field we’ll be good.
You’re similarly outspoken on social media, how does that go down?
One thing about social media is that it turns people in to heroes, like superheroes, they will just talk from the neck and say whatever they want, even crazy stuff. Sometimes I could be more articulate with what I’m saying, and I know that. The point of dealing with the artist is that you’re dealing with a human. I’m not a politician, I’m not here to be an expert, I can’t tell you the history but I can tell you what I believe is wrong.
Has that had an effect?
Since I first started speaking my mind on social media, people have really started educating themselves and going in to bat for a lot of issues that might not affect them but they can empathise with. Even if one person from a bunch of 50 really ignorant people hits me up and says they learnt something from what I said that’s enough. And that has happened to me, which is cool because that’s the only way we’re going to fix things.
Do you like having a public voice?
I think two things: firstly I think it’s your duty, especially if you understand and have lived it. And second I think I’m lucky—out of all of my friends that have to deal with oppression at least I can vent in to music or social media and see it be heard.
It sounds like you’ve had your own realisation?
It needs to be talked about, now that I know how much work we have to do. I know I’ve got privilege as a male and a straight guy, apart from my skin colour I’m mad high up the food chain. Once you realise that you have privilege you can move forward from there. I feel a lot less tension in my stomach since I came to terms with that.
So what can people do?
You can be out with people saying something that you have no idea about but instead of opening your mouth you just need to listen. If you don’t know anything about what you’re talking about…then just shut up and listen.
This article originally appeared in the July issue of Limit’d. Download the app here.