Adam Lawler reviews the debut album by Drumcondra’s very own Rejjie Snow.
After seven years of singles, mixtapes, a calculated move overseas, and a name change, Drumcondra native Alex Anyaegbunam’s debut album is finally here. At 20 tracks and an hour long, it’s a considerable journey. The album slash odyssey is produced by Rahki and others. It features a mercurial cast of collaborators including Ebenezer, Jesse Boykins III, Anna of the North, and more, but this is undeniably Snow’s vision.
From the handclaps, Kendrick-esque barbershop harmonies and crisp hi-hats of the opener ‘Hello,’ it’s clear that the spectrum of sounds throughout Dear Annie will be unlike anything Snow has released until this point, and he has released a lot of songs, all of which zip across the stylistic map. The breezy feel of this album makes perfect sense, considering that Snow is trying to make a work that captures the confusing and contradictory essence of young love and heartbreak, and the fluttering vibraphones and effervescent beats belie the weighty emotional core of the album.
The narrative, as well as the consistently wavy production, gives the album a surprising cohesion. There are several interludes featuring a redacted radio host which telegraph the direction, and the narrative reaches a dark nadir on ‘Room 27’, its title a reference to the 27 Club.
The narrative, as well as the consistently wavy production, gives the album a surprising cohesion. There are several interludes featuring a redacted radio host which telegraph the direction, and the narrative reaches a dark nadir on ‘Room 27,’ its title a reference to the 27 Club. Meanwhile, ‘23’ is a biting back-and-forth between Snow and Caroline Smith, who plays the role of his exasperated lover on a late-night update of ‘Young Folks.’
Much has been made of the lack of Irish touchstones in Snow’s music, and Dear Annie moves him further away from home than ever. Apart from a joyous Republic of Loose cover and brief flashes of his native accent, he never betrays his roots, affecting an Americanised drawl throughout. This doesn’t exactly hinder the appeal of the album; if anything it will be refreshing to see Snow succeed on the merit of his songwriting rather than coasting on the novelty of being an Irish rapper. However, he never establishes an engaging identity, and his flow and cadence almost always echo Tyler, the Creator, with brief flashes of Vince Staples on ‘Bye Polar.’
He somehow mixes classic hip-hop, jazz, Stevie Wonder harmonicas, the euphoria of Anderson .Paak and the vibes of Kaytranada (who produces the lush ‘Egyptian Luvr’) into a fresh and satisfying whole.
Nevertheless, Snow is charmingly lovestruck throughout, and it becomes clear that, like Drake, his true talent is in the full package; he’s one hell of a curator. He somehow mixes classic hip-hop, jazz, Stevie Wonder harmonicas, the euphoria of Anderson .Paak and the vibes of Kaytranada (who produces the lush ‘Egyptian Luvr’) into a fresh and satisfying whole. At the same time, there’s a certain thrill that comes from knowing that the American target audience will listen to moments like ‘Charlie Brown’ with confusion and wonder, and it’s a thrill one can’t help but long for more of.
In a nutshell: Fresh, cohesive, and endlessly enjoyable; one of the most accomplished debuts from an Irish artist in a minute.