Our First Impressions of Rema’s Debut Album ‘Rave & Roses’

another banger

Rema’s debut album has been an enigma for the longest time. Despite being officially announced by Mavin Records a little over three years ago, conversations about the Benin-born superstar usually transcend the contemporary. He’s been acclaimed as a generational talent as eagerly as his melody-based songs are sometimes slandered, contested on the altar of public opinion. Leading to this present moment, the billion naira question has been: what would his debut album sound like?

Earlier today, ‘Rave & Roses’ was released, the culmination of an audio-visual rollout experience that, from the listening party to the album’s trailer, mirrored the slick intensity in Rema’s own music. The singles “Soundgasm”, “Calm Down”, and “FYN” were distinct yet cohesive, evading the grasp of those who’d attempt to define Rema’s sonic experiments. Expectations were nevertheless at an all time high, this album being the most anticipated in recent afro pop history. With sixteen songs, the universe of Rema is unraveled like never before, for anyone to step inside and feel their way around.

Here at the NATIVE, we’ve followed Rema from the beginning, when the world’s love was still a dream conceived. When that dream became amorphous bangers steeped in intricate craftsmanship and youthful enthusiasm, we followed. Now, the album promised is here. No gimmicks. So, what are the album standouts? Who has the best verse? Biggest skips? Our editorial team have answered those questions, as we give our first impressions of Rema’s ‘Rave & Roses’.


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Best song?

Wonu: For me, this has to be “Are You There?”. I specifically enjoyed this song based on all Rema really says, you can tell he’s trying to pass a message aside from the vibe the song gives off and the production on the track is something else. The reggae vibe the track is giving off is everything. This is certainly a strong contender for best song and close second to this is “Soundgasm”. To me, “Soundgasm” can pass for a perfect song.

Shina: This is a tight call between “Hold Me” and “Addicted”. “Addicted” is that song that’s infused with prime 80’s crack, not like I know what that feels like but you get what I mean. And “Hold Me” sounds like the perfect song on this album, with the smooth segue from the intro track and one of Rema’s best deliveries on the album. 6lack also delivers a fitting verse on track.

Best verse?

Maria: There’s something about 6lack’s music and he put it in “Hold Me”, that’s why I think it’s the best verse and song in the album. You think the song is already as sensual as it gets with Rema setting the tone early on in the track and then towards the end, the tempo slows down and opens up to 6lack’s breezy vocals smoothly delivering spicy lyrics like; “I just want to lick you up and down”/“You know that I only want a taste” and everywhere just gets incredibly hot. His cadence is rich as always and the melodies surrounding it are sweet. That verse is pure ear candy.

Chibuzo: I don’t think there should be any debate about this to be honest. Rema’s first verse on the electric “Are You There?” is incontrovertibly the best verse on this project. In the verse, Rema is intentional but also as raw as it gets. Armed with his usual breezy confidence, he touches on a selection of weighty topics— the political zeitgeist in the country, personal reflection, burning sexual desire, amongst others. All the while weaving in cleverly fashioned quips and punchlines, delivered in the native Nigerian pidgin.

Tami: I think the album is full of great quotes across a number of songs, particularly with braggadociuos quips littered around the project on “FYN” and “Are You There?” However, I think the verses that made me chuckle and do a quick take back came on “Love” where Rema is expressing his desire to his muse. As he serenades her, he throws in relatable but humorous lines such as “high me pass Benson cigar,” and “Give me account number, make I come balance,” lines that would resonate immediately with his Nigerian audience who use this lingo in their day to day. Another memorable quote comes on “Are You There?” where Rema quips “Buhari chop, how many he cut for me/make dem play Dorime dorime for the club for the club for me,” a humurous but politically charged lyric that highlights the problems plaguing young people in his motherland. Rema is genius.

Standout production?

Shina: There are a lot of stellar productions on this project. I wouldn’t go with one but i’ll say “Addicted”, “Are You There?” and “FYN” are at the top of the list. Higo who also produced “Carry” is an honourable mention.

Emmanuel: See, one thing Rema will always have is banging production. I’ve said so before and I’ll repeat this: one of the ways Mavin Records have consistently excelled at this pop thing is by having the sickest producers in their corner. You just get the vibe they invest in their producers as much as they invest in the artists, which is only right. ‘Rave & Roses’ has very immersive production, buttery and warm for most parts. A number of songs make good claim for the spot, but right now I’m leaning towards “Are You There?” 1Mind’s production is really vivid, bouncing with a distinctly Caribbean groove. It’s also reminiscent of early 2000s Sean Paul, but Rema is in profound conversation with the violent history of dancehall when he subverts this bright production to deliver a record poignantly aware of the complexities that comes with being Nigerian.

Dennis: I’ll go for the 3-song run of “Addicted,” “Are You There?” and “FYN.” From a composition standpoint, those are three of the most unique songs on Rave and Roses, each showcasing versatility and executed with supreme confidence. The first is synthwave, with Rema skating across sparkling synths; the second is purposefully agitated, a personal statement of joy and defiance that references the Konto music period of Nigerian street-pop in the early 2000s; the final song is baroque funk, filled with rubbery basslines, rumbling bass guitar riffs, and impervious boasts. Production is not just the instrumental arrangements, it’s how the artist works in tandem with whatever soundscape they choose, and these three songs are perfectly cut diamonds, if you ask me.

Biggest skip?

Wonu: Biggest skip for me is “Calm Down”. The track is not bad but it’s extremely long and it can get very tiring easily. “Calm Down” is one of those tracks that I never really listen to till the end. Again, it’s not close to a bad song, it’s just extremely long.

Maria: My biggest skip would be “Carry”. Maybe if I didn’t read his breakdown of the track where he likened it to “Lady”, I might think differently, but I did and the song is not giving me anything close to what “Lady” did. It’s not a horrible song, it’s just not something I’ll listen to when I feel sexy as the lyrics depict.

Chibuzo: My biggest skip is “Mara”. It’s not by any means a bad song, I think the issue is that it is placed just below the electric “Jo”, juxtaposing it with such a powerful song makes it feel a little drab in comparison.

Best Guest verse?

Wonu: The synergy between Chris Brown and Rema on “Time N Affection” is everything for me. Chris Brown certainly did what he was supposed to do on this track and delivered a stellar verse. The texture of his vocals is everything, he certainly ate the track up. I’m going to be spinning this one for quite a while.

Chibuzo: For me the best verse is 6lack’s on “Hold Me”. First off, if there’s any such thing as a perfect song, “Hold Me” will fit perfectly in that pocket. From the segue between “Divine” and the song to Rema’s verse to the production to the spectacular jaw-dropping outro— everything screams perfection, and 6lack doesn’t deliver anything less. He was the perfect feature for the record, he understood the assignment and dropped a 10-over-10.

Overall first impression

Dennis: Apart from label mate Ayra Starr, I don’t think I’ve heard a debut album with as much edge as ‘Rave and Roses’ in the last five years, at least. A lot of debut album from ascendant pop superstars tend to be needlessly genial, perhaps as a way to be seen as wholesome by older listeners. Rema made an album that’s fitting for a 21-year old with a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder, and the world at his feet. It’s ebullient, it’s sex-crazed, it’s irrationally confident, it’s sometimes tender and vulnerable, and it’s wholly excellent in its execution.

Emmanuel: It’s a solid album. Really love the production and the several ways Rema’s able to describe sex. The sensual bangers aside, “Divine” and “Are You There?” are high moments on the album which demonstrates Rema’s unique ability to evoke thoughtfulness while pulling your legs to dance. Ultimately the plains of a sixteen-track album is vast and sometimes the excitement wanes, which I thought was due to monotony. The album’s vision demanded more features, a couple of women perhaps. Still, pretty solid and enjoyable. Well worth the wait in my opinion.

Stream ‘Rave & Roses’ below.

Featured image credits/LanreWilliams