The Australian hip hop scene is undergoing something of a cultural resurgence. There are many who feel disillusioned with a local rap scene that seems to rest on thick Australian accents, deep social insensitivity, Holden Commodores and snapbacks. But as of late, artists like Baro, Sampa The Great, A.B Original and Remi are bringing some class and true artistry back to the proceedings.
Divas & Demons, the latest release by Melbourne local Remi, boasts a staggering sixteen track runtime. But this hefty length is merited because the young artist has a lot to say, and he isn’t afraid to say it all. Remi doesn’t shy away from confronting studies of Australian racial inequality, personal demons and relationship breakdowns, and an ongoing battle with weed and depression. He delves into the politics of selective police screening, talking about how as a young man he was stopped at a train station, apparently just for being black. He talks about the struggles of being kept on the fringe of society and the lack of progress being made regardless of the insurgence of keyboard warriors. Using his platform as a sort of soap box, he spits venom at an Australian cultural landscape being torn apart by institutional racism, and rhetoric terrorism from fear-mongering hate groups like One Nation and Reclaim Australia. Simultaneously, he discusses being in the throes of depression, and the toll this takes on his life, and relationships.
Remi has referred to Divas & Demons as a “diary of depression”, but it still shines with hope and an optimistic outlook towards a necessary cultural shift. During ‘Young and Free’, he rails against a wealth of hot button topics like the refugee crisis and gay marriage, criticising the media for allowing a culture of hate to breed around these issues, and openly calling Rupert Murdoch a c*** in the process. ‘Outsiders’ gives a voice to the frustrations of marginalised racial groups in Australia, “Black rights is the flavour of the week/They scroll our profiles/Profile a police, uh/So the result/Make our pain look cheap/But when it’s time for real change/They don’t speak.”
During a chat with Purple Sneakers, Remi discussed his willingness to lay racial issues on the table for this album, continuing from his discussion of such things on his first album Raw x Infinity.
Divas & Demons is the perfect antidote to a stagnating Australian hip hop scene that has been dominated by mediocrity for far too long. It represents unique Australian experience, articulated with great ease and sincerity. It fights back against complicated issues that run through the veins of our society and dissects them. It dives into the ups and downs of personal relationships, and the everyday struggle we all face to truly connect. It’s an existential, introspective wave of cultural criticism, but boldly serves as a feel good soulful affair at the same time.
Divas & Demons is a whole lot of things wrapped into one – beautiful, tragic, skilful, forward thinking, combative, reactionary, smooth, and poetic. But above all else, it’s one hell of a good time anchored in raw honesty and fantastic production.