Photos by Michael Mayren
When Rejjie Snow, then known as Lecs Luther, put out the video for “Dia Dhuit” it felt like the British Isles had finally ditched the road rap of dead-out grime MCs for MF Doom inspired wordplay and North Face streetwear. But then there was no follow-up. His permanently postponed Fish and Chips EP never saw the light of day, as Rejjie decided to focus on his education, studying in America. He finally made his return to the mic earlier this year, premiering “Lost In Empathy” with Noisey, and later, releasing an EP that for one (admittedly brief) moment, topped both Kanye West and J. Cole in the iTunes hip-hop charts.
We’ve been trying to catch up with Rejjie for a while, but he’s been reacquainting himself with the clouds, travelling between Paris, Dublin, London and across the US. Last week, though, we pinned him down for a quick chat to talk about the time he convinced the world that he was Captain Murphy, his long break, and having a gun pulled on him in Georgia.
Noisey: Hey man, what’s going on?
Rejjie: Yo, safe G. I’ve just got out of bed, I’m just trying to start my day.
It’s like, three o’clock and you’re just waking up. What’d you do last night?
I’ve been in Paris, shooting a video. I got back to Dublin yesterday. Then I’m going to try and get back to London. I was in Paris for about four days and we shot the video on…. What day is it today?
We shot it on Tuesday. It’s for the song “Snow”. (UPDATE: We've since premiered the video for "Snow" and you can watch it here)
What’s the concept behind it? In the video for "Lost In Empathy" you had the whole albino theme going on.
Yeah, that was quite conceptual. This one is different. It’s basically about me being a school kid. It’s just down to some rapper shit, with mad girls. And, I’m in Paris, it’s all real luxurious and braggadocios.
Is that what made you want to go to Paris? The luxury? I’ve seen you’ve got an infatuation with Gucci and gold Crocs.
I’ve got some friends in Paris, so we stayed with them. It’s just trying to be funny, innit. I’m about that. I wear fake Gucci.
It’s a rap thing to do, to go for the Gucci. But you’ve flipped it.
I can’t afford the real shit yet, so why lie?
Straight up. So, there’s an old picture of you and King Krule together. How did that happen?
I met him about a year and a half ago. Ever since then, we’ve been friends. We’ve done some tracks and shit, but they’ve never been released, so people are always like – “Oh, they’re lying.” But it’s not even like that. He’s got his album coming out and we don’t want to release anything half arsed.
It’s got to be on point.
Exactly. But we’re good friends. He’s doing really well at the moment.
So are you. At one point, you were above J Cole and co on the iTunes chart. How does it feel to be the kid from Ireland who finally got his come up?
I don’t know. It feels cool. If you work hard and follow your dreams, shit can just happen. In my head I’m always trying to rap for Ireland. It’s good people aren’t thinking I’m from America, they’re starting to get the fact that I’m from Dublin.
You’ve pretty much twisted convention by not only being a black guy from Ireland but also an Irish guy who is rapping. It's your USP.
I feel like later on it’s going to be something that stands for me a lot. For now, I’m not thinking about that, I’m just making music and shit. I’ve been away for a while and it’s been hard to come back and rekindle what I had when I first came out.
How come there was such a long break? The Lecs Luther thing and Fish and Chips EP kind of disappeared.
I was in college for about two years, in America, and I was trying my best to juggle music and school but it wasn’t happening. It was fucking with my creative aesthetic. I’m finally finished with school and it’s a blessing because now I can focus on this 100%.
Coming from Ireland, how’d you end up in America?
I used to be a football player. I was one of those jock guys, I wanted to be a pro. I was getting into mad trouble back home, doing graffiti and all sorts of dumb shit. My Mum and Dad were like, you need to go away, so I went to America. A guy offered me a scholarship.
So, this is basically your Earl Sweatshirt Samoa situation.
Yeah, but I was going away to play football, which was kind of cool. Initially, I went to a high school for a year. I ended up getting offered – they call it division one, really good universities – they offered me a scholarship. But I turned it down and went with a college that was an art school. I didn’t want to study shit like business, you know? I wasn’t sure if my music was going to take off, so I was like, in the back of my head, if this doesn’t work…
You’re going to need a back up plan.
Exactly. I wanted to finish college and get a degree.
There was such a buzz here in England when “Dia Dhuit” dropped. Did any of the kids over in America know that you rapped?
It took one kid to tell everybody, and then after that it was just girls.
Your girl getting game must have come up. I often see you on Twitter talking about waking up next to some bitch or something.
Haha, most of the time I’m lying, but sometimes that shit’s real. You know how people are when you’re a rapper, you just get girls.
Do you play off that thing of being a rapper, where you can just say shit and people believe it? You could literally go on Twitter right now and say I’ve just fucked … and people would believe it.
It’s crazy, people are really gullible.
Like the whole Captain Murphy thing.
Yeah! You know, mad people, fucking, don’t like me for that. But listen, I was getting mad tweets from people saying like “haha, we know that Rejjie Snow is Captain Murphy”. I came home that night, I was drunk, and I put my fucking webcam on and made it look like his YouTube videos and that shit got blown out of proportion. It’s just crazy how gullible people really are.
On all your old Lecs Luther shit, people were trying to cat on you. They said that you’d stolen the Odd Future flow. On these new tracks I can notice your accent more. Was that natural, or a decision to show your true self?
It was more of a natural thing. When I was young, sub consciously, you know your accent is fucked up and it’s not going to appeal and stuff. I wasn’t trying to put on an accent. But…
I know what you mean. If I ever try and rap along to something, it always comes out in an American tinge.
Exactly. When I first came out, that’s what people first heard, some guy who is Irish but sounds like he’s American. The whole Odd Future thing, I wasn’t inspired by them. But, I was inspired by the movement, and the whole rebellious aspect. That was really cool. Initially, when I first came out it was like a mere copy of what Doom did. I listened to his whole catalogue and then I ended up writing straight after. I’ve got Doom tattooed on my leg.
Yeah, he’s a big inspiration.
That’s probably where the Earl Sweatshirt comparison comes from. He’s got the same influence.
You’re signed to Elton John’s management. Have you met?
I met him at the Christmas party. He was cool. He actually knew who I was. I thought he’d think of me as this next guy but he asked me how my EP was coming along.
The other day you told me you wanted to go to Sweden, you’ve just been to Paris. And now you’re back in Dublin. You must be clocking up some mad frequent flyer miles. Is there any particular place you’d like to go to and perform for a certain reason?
I’m trying to go to Sweden. I’ve never been there. And, I’ve been to nearly everywhere in the world. Sorry to keep saying that, but I’m trying to get out there and do some shit with that guy, Yung Lean. I’ve been talking to him, he sounds like a good guy. Good intentions, he’s into the same sort of stuff as me. I want to do something with him before he gets too famous and shit, because then it’ll be harder to reach him.
Seeing as you’ve been pretty much everywhere in the world, do you have any crazy stories of when you’ve been travelling round?
Erm, shit. I can tell you a story of when I was in college. Me and my friend were coming back from a night out, just walking back to the fucking dorms or whatever. Some dude with full on gold teeth, some Georgian hood nigga, just pulled a fucking strap out. I nearly pissed my pants. He points a gun at us and then he just drove off real fast. Just for a split second, it wasn’t like when your life flashes by but so many thoughts went through my head, like am I going to die and shit. It was the craziest thing.
I’ve never even seen a gun in real life.
It’s so scary. That’s a funny story.
Cool Rejjie, that’s it. I’ll let you get back to starting your day.
Follow Ryan on Twitter: @RyanBassil
Read more from Ryan: