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B Side, Music

Rema’s ‘HEIS’ is a Raucous Rave Uprising Rooted in Rebellion

HEIS, in its noisy, chaotic glory and its fearless experimentation presents a dazzling, if disorienting, welcome for the unversed to one of the most exciting acts

  • Melony Akpoghene
  • 11th July 2024

Rema is at war. The Rave Lord has fully shed his chrysalis. Hence, HEIS is an insurrection. The ragged ferocity. The speed and decibel levels. The mocking lyrics. There’s a ferocity to the 27-minute-long album that’s both exhilarating and euphoric yet menacing and unsettling. He barks and growls over pummeling drums and distorted synths. His aggressive delivery and the equally combative beats are a clarion call that he is here to disrupt and redefine. It’s an album built to be experienced, not just listened to. It’s music for letting go of inhibitions and embracing the beautiful noise.  No one else is making music quite like this right now — and that’s exactly what makes Rema such a compelling artist, and HEIS, one of the bravest albums out now.


The album’s introduction is the P Priime-produced “March Am,” which sets the tone for an album that was made to upset delicate sensibilities. This raucous opener is a searing expression of his relentless spirit, channeling an anger and defiance that has been simmering since last year’s EP, Ravage. “Everyday this my mouth I dey sharp am… / Everyday I dey raise una BP,” he sings.


Despite its chaos Rema streamlines the tracks to transition effortlessly into one another. “Azaman” slides in right after which sees Rema flexing his financial muscles because “he’s that nigga”. “HEHEHE” enters with gleeful mockery. It’s a playground taunt. Rema pointedly confronts his critics, detractors and anyone who dares challenge him. His vocals contort into playful sneers as he revels in his success. This sense of audacious self-belief permeates the album. “Yayo” is a kaleidoscopic, amapiano dazzler. Rema continues with his arrogance, “I dey cash out on a norm’ / I give all glory to God / I dey on soft, rocking Alexander Wang.”


There’s simply no one else doing what Rema is doing right now. If he hasn’t made it clear enough, he emphasizes how unafraid he is on the album. At a time when he is well on his way to international recognition, he eschews the well-trodden path to global appeal. Instead, he unleashes a potent cocktail of righteous anger and an unshakeable sense of self. On “Ozeba,” a fast-paced, bouncy Mara tune and one of the album’s sharpest cuts, he throws his crown into the ring, “
I don comot from my set / I don intercept” clearly claiming a deserved place in the top rank of Afrobeats established “Big 3” order.


The titular “HEIS” is a rousing, ceremonial anthem; its ethereal choral arrangements and Swahili praise songs conjuring an otherworldly aura, before the album’s sonic terrain is further expanded by the appearance of ODUMODUBLVCK on the pugnacious “War Machine”, a high-octane, hip-hop inflected excursion replete with militant percussion and testosterone-fueled bravado. Rema’s non-conformist tendencies are a defining characteristic, and on “Villain” — a frenetic Afro-EDM behemoth helmed by P Priime — he pulls this off with even more unapologetic rage, creating a fascinating tension that keeps you perpetually on edge. Rather than shying away from recent controversies, Rema weaponizes them, transforming them into the very fuel that propels the song forward.


“Now I Know” is a moment of calm after the storm. Here, Rema reflects on his journey with a profound sense of clarity.


Rema is determined to stand out, and he does so spectacularly. It is interesting that on the more aggressive songs on the album, Rema appropriates streetpop’s subversive paradigm, harnessing its pluck and anti-establishment ethos as a catalyst for his artistic insurrection. He amplifies its rebelliousness and creativity. 


HEIS, in its noisy, chaotic glory and its fearless experimentation presents a dazzling, if disorienting, welcome for the unversed to one of the most exciting acts who is demonstrating that Afrobeats was always meant to be a dynamic, shape-shifting entity, resistant to codification and stagnation. While it may feel like an overeager attempt, Rema’s sheer audacity makes it easy to overlook. 


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