Divine Ikubor, a Nigerian singer, has recounted his life before Don Jazzy’s record label signed him, saying he had not thought himself a good musician.
The 20-year-old, who is better know as Rema, had landed a deal with Mavin Records in 2018 but his songs would later attract a teeming audience both within the country and in the diaspora.
In a chat with Rolling Stone, Rema discussed how his first stride towards music saw him undergo tutelage as a church singer and prompted his viral freestyle of a song by D’Prince, who later favoured him.
He said he had started out at his hometown’s Christ of Mercy church, where he was installed as a youth leader for a program called ‘Rap Nation’ that taught kids how to rap for the congregation.
“If I look back, I wasn’t really that good,” Rema said while detailing the experiences that had further fueled his quest to find an opportunity he could lay hands towards showcasing his talent.
He also explained that, following the death of his father in 2008, his brother had followed seven years later, bringing untoward financial hardship to his mum and two sisters.
To make ends meet, they had embarked on a yearlong move to Ghana where very little was in store for them. “We were hungry. I was the only man in the house. I had to do something,” Rema said.
Returning to Benin, the young crooner noted that Ghana had removed the scales of carefreeness that accompanied his childhood, making him draw on the secular influences to build his sound.
D’Prince, who doubles as Don Jazzy’s brother, would later sign Rema after the ‘Dumebi’ crooner did a viral Instagram freestyle of his ‘Gucci Gang’.
“When I took that break, I saw real life. I was like, ‘This is my only chance’. I had to prove myself. I had strictly hip-hop, trap songs. But D’Prince started pitching some Afrobeats to me,” he said.
Reacting to how he gained the attention of Oliver El-Khatib, Drake’s manager, and Barack Obama, who included ‘Iron Man’ on his 2019 summer playlist, Rema added: “It was amazing being the only Nigerian artist there. I don’t know anybody in the White House or in the American government. How did my music walk so far to his doorstep?”
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