Following the release of his latest project “Codename, Vol. 2”, I interviewed Dremo for RADR. I didn’t know much about him or his music. So, instead of going for a biographical-type interview, I asked questions that would reveal his personality to our readers; an approach I think would be beneficial to fans and non-fans alike.
If you were wondering what interviewing Dremo is like, it’s like having a conversation with your guy’s guy. On the one hand, you don’t really know the guy like that but on the other hand, you’re familiar with the guy a little and it’s easier to connect; because he’s your guy’s guy. Does that make sense?
It should because we’ve all been there. And we can thank Dremo for putting that whole idea in my head. “We all have that friend’s friend that always wants to feel among. You probably have one guy that is not your guy like that but is always acting like your guy.” He’s talking about the song “Who’s Your Guy?”, the fourth track on “Codename, Vol. 2” which I’ll refer to as “CNV2” henceforth for the sake of brevity.
I say “he’s talking” because I didn’t ask him about the song. He was just talking about it. What I asked him about was the major takeaway for listeners to which he replied: “I feel like this is an album for people that can relate to scenarios.” And then he went through the entire tracklist taking his time to break down every song; explaining these different scenarios. Him doing that was a dead giveaway of how proud he was of the project.
“Who’s Your Guy” also happens to be his favorite track on CNV2:
“There are so many scenarios that happened that day. At first, I woke up very drunk because I was fucked up. The last night I went to Ibadan. They took me to like six clubs, drinking Hennesy anyhow. So I woke up really, really, really drunk, but I was supposed to record that night but I slept off. So when I woke up I just heard the beat playing in the other room so I just entered “ah ahn how far now? You guys just play me the beat.”
“That was the second time was I was meeting the producer. So he played the beat and I started freestyling and he was like, “Who’s your guy?” And I’m like, “ehn I don’t know you like that, no call me your friend, my friend”. So it was just simple and very easy to make. I did that song in less than like 3 hours.”
It’s no surprise someone like Dremo is doing fine with everything going on. He comes across in our conversation(and his music) as largely unbothered about anything. If you pay close attention you can tell he’s not always been like that but rather it’s a disposition he’s grown into; one he’s very comfortable with.
My assessment checks out when you listen to him talk about things like competing:
“I feel like, to be honest, I don’t care about anybody, rapper, in Yankee, Nigeria. Bro, if you come for me and you’re bigger than me, I’m coming for you straight. I don’t care if you would defeat me or you’re better than me, I’m coming for you straight.”
He also expresses this on the first track of “CNV2”, “Stfu”:
“I was talking about how I don’t really care if you call me the best rapper or not, all I’m doing is giving you this great music. I don’t care about these competitions, I just want to be on top, real shit.”
But like almost every other artist out there, he’s been spending his days in large part making new music. “I’m actually seeing the chemistry between me and Davido ‘cause we’ve been working together more often so we have more songs coming out,” he said. And the man isn’t sleeping on the grind either; he’s already begun work on his next project saying, “even if na 2021 I go drop am I don’t care. I’m working ahead of time because I don’t know when [COVID-19] is going to end.”
Being stuck at home hasn’t been much of a big deal either. Apart from wanting to see the club, his girls and a lot of people in one place having fun, he’s good. In his own words: “This is how I be most of the time. If I don’t have a show or if I don’t have any of my guys to go and see, I’m always at home.” And although COVID-19 might’ve slightly disrupted everyone’s plans, Dremo included, he says we should be expecting new videos off “CNV2”.
I found it interesting that his general concept for “CNV2” and the way it was arranged drew from the 1999 sci-fi film “The Matrix” and its famous red and blue pill: “So the blue pill is [tracks 1 through 6], which is just me. Then the red has the features. So pick your poison basically.”
Even more interesting is the revelation that Dremo doesn’t believe in “planning music”, which I found out about when I asked how he picked his features for “CNV2”. “I feel like if you plan music, you’ll fail”. His process was one of constant recording. In fact, they were features and songs that ended up not making it into the album. “The one with Falz [Sharp Sharp] was supposed to be on Codename, Vol. 1 but I just felt like that wasn’t the right time to drop it.”
He also gave the example of DMW’s 2019 single “On God”: “So basically this song was recorded in Nigeria and was sent to my email. At that time I was in America, so I heard it, sent it to David. David was in America, but he was in I think, New York, I was in [Atlanta]. So all the verses came from different corners and it was just a smash. So I feel like, the way music is being created these days, it’s just, just let it flow.”
But for someone who doesn’t plan his music, he does have something he was going for with this new project, and his music in general: relatability. He spoke about this in an interview with Pulse.ng saying about “CNV2”:
“I want people to be able to consume rap music without realizing it’s rap music because it’s easily digestible and less complex. It’s working because I’ve heard positive feedback from it. Some people say, ‘I don’t like rap, but I listen to yours.’ In Nigeria, there’s Jollof rice and Fried rice – Jollof is David, Wiz, Burna, and so forth. Someone has to rep the Fried rice – not everyone will be Jollof,”
He recited the same Jollof and Fried rice analogy to me and shared an anecdote about girls who usually don’t listen to rap telling him how much they enjoyed his album:
“So with this album what I was trying to portray was bro, you can make rap fun. I have seen so many tweets from some girls, most of them are girls that say, “Oh Dremo, I don’t really like rap but you made me enjoy your album.” Anytime I hear like that, I’m always happy and excited because that’s what I’ve been planning in my head for the longest.”
Relatability is something Dremo stresses on when I ask if he had anything he wanted to speak on concerning the Nigerian music scene:
“For the up and coming guys, please don’t get misled; do you but be wise about it. Talking to the rappers now, make your rap relatable. Just do what the fuck you can do because no be you rap pass, people for Yankee them dey rap, them dey rap die. So how can you make someone in America fuck with your rap here in Nigeria?”
I mentioned to him that there are rappers who might say Nigerians aren’t smart enough to understand and appreciate their music and here was his response:
“To be honest, I kind of agree with that to an extent because obviously, we have the smart Nigerian ones, right? Well, those smart Nigerian ones are few. So how do you want to explain a line to a street boy that doesn’t even give a fuck about what you’re saying? He doesn’t want to hear what you’re saying. All he wants to hear is beat and lamba. So how are you going to appeal to those people at the same time appeal to this one wey get sense? “
Don’t get him wrong, he was careful to point out that it was also about balance. His songs undeniably satisfy the Nigerian market but they hit abroad too:
“See when, when I dropped this album I actually got like five interviews from New York because after Nigeria it’s America that has the most viewed or most-streamed for my album. Okay, so I had like five interviews bro. It made me feel good of course…because I’ve never for once had a deal with any international whatsoever. They actually asked to interview me, five!”
While on the topic of upcoming artists, I was curious about what else he felt these artists were overlooking. When I posed the question to him he answered in a heartbeat:
“Your phone. Not using your phone right. Because if for example, I’m looking for an artist right now yeah, what do you think would be the first thing I do?” I said “social media” and he goes:
“Yes. Thank you. You’re a rapper but you don’t post content because somebody said it has to be 100% clear. That’s a lie. You have to do what you have to do with what you have to get what you want. That’s the easiest way to go about it without spending money. Just be creative. In the end, what we want to listen to is your potential. If you have all the resources in the world, in fact, I will not even want to help you because I feel you’re good. But as long as you can show that symptom of “ah baba, I’m hungry for this shit, let’s go” then that’s it. That’s all you need to be honest.”
One of the first questions I asked Dremo; what had changed between the Dremo on CNV1 and the one on CNV2, I believe it’s a nice place to end:
“I feel like my confidence grew a whole lot because at the time I recorded “Codename, Vol. 1,” I would say I was in a down time. I was still getting money but you just know that this is not where you want to be. For example, Codename Vol. 1, on “Nobody”, the first track, that one spoke about my pain. The last track “Fan of My Fans” spoke about the people that have been standing by me even when the times were down. But this Codename, Vol 2, it’s like you’ve not heard it, you need to listen to it properly because from the first track to the last track, I wasn’t joking bro. Like all the lines on [“Stfu”], if you blink, you’ll miss it.”
And it’s the same with Dremo; if you blink, you’ll miss him.
In case you missed it, you can check out $B’s RADR Africa’s New School interview here.