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Rema; the Benin boy making waves

Rema has grown to become one of the most popular and influential artists in the Nigerian music scene. In this Weekend Magazine feature, Daily Trust…

Rema has grown to become one of the most popular and influential artists in the Nigerian music scene. In this Weekend Magazine feature, Daily Trust Saturday highlights Rema’s journey from singing in church to dominating international stages globally.

Born Divine Ikubor in 2000 in Benin City, Edo State, Rema has emerged as one of the most promising and influential artists in the African music scene. His journey to stardom is a compelling narrative of talent, determination, and the power of social media.

Rema grew up in a religious family and started singing in his local church choir at the age of seven. He developed a passion for music and learned how to play the drums and keyboard. He also participated in several talent shows and rap battles, where he honed his skills and gained confidence.

By the time he was in secondary school, he was known amongst his peers for recording music and making beats. His early exposure to music production set the foundation for his future endeavours. His unique style, blending Afrobeat, trap, and alternative sounds, was already taking shape during these formative years.

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Rema began to gain popularity by sharing his music on platforms like SoundCloud, Youtube and Instagram where his tracks quickly caught the attention of fellow music lovers and producers. One pivotal moment that catapulted Rema into the spotlight was when he caught the ear of Nigerian artist and brother to Don Jazzy, the founder of Mavin Records D’Prince.

Impressed by Rema’s raw talent, D’Prince introduced him to the Mavin Records family. This marked a turning point in Rema’s career, as he officially signed with Mavin Records in 2018.

Rema’s debut single “Iron Man” was released in March 2019, as part of a four-track EP titled Rema. The song was an instant hit and showcased Rema’s versatility and unique style of blending Afrobeat, pop, trap and R&B. The song also caught the eye of former US President Barack Obama, who included it in his summer playlist of 2019.

However, it was “Dumebi” that truly became a breakout hit for Rema. The infectious melody and catchy lyrics resonated not only in Nigeria but also across the African continent and beyond. The music video for “Dumebi” also quickly garnered millions of views on YouTube, showcasing Rema’s cross-cultural appeal

Rema followed up with two more EPs in 2019, Rema Freestyle and Bad Commando, which further established him as a force to reckon with in the industry. He won several awards, including the Next Rated Award at the Headies, the Soundcity MVP for Best New Artist, and the BET Award for Viewer’s Choice: Best New International Act. He also collaborated with major artists like Rvssian, Becky G, 6lack and Drake.

In 2020, Rema continued to release hit songs like “Beamer”, “Woman”, “Ginger Me” and “Peace of Mind”. He also featured on the remix of “Dumebi” by Major Lazer and on the soundtrack of FIFA 21. He was nominated for the MTV Europe Music Award for Best African Act and the MOBO Award for Best African Act. He also made the Forbes Africa 30 under 30 list and the Time 100 Next list.

However, Rema didn’t put any brakes on his journey to stardom. In 2022, Rema released ‘Calm Down’, a single of his debut album ‘Raves and Roses’. The song appeared on charts all around Europe, peaking at the top of the Dutch Single Top 100, Belgian Ultratop 50, and Dutch Top 40. The song spent twenty-five non-consecutive weeks in the top ten of the UK Singles Chart, peaking at number three there.

Following the success of ‘Calm Down’ worldwide most especially Asia and Europe, Rema took a tour in India making the first afrobeat artist to shut down a performance in India. In viral videos, the whole crowd was seen miming to ‘Calm Down’. The vibrant energy of his music resonated with the Indian audience, creating an electric atmosphere that transcended language barriers
In August 2022, Rema released a remix of “Calm Down” featuring American singer Selena Gomez. The remix peaked at number three on the Global 200 chart and at number one on the Billboard US Afrobeats Songs and Billboard Global Excl. US charts. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked at number three, becoming Rema’s first top-ten success and Gomez’s eighth overall. For a record-breaking 58 weeks, it also topped the U.S. Afrobeats Songs chart.
The ‘Calm Down’ remix was nothing short of a global sensation. Beyond the chart success, the remix ignited conversations about the potential for more cross-cultural collaborations in the music industry.

The song also received many international nominations and wins including MTV VMA’s Best Afrobeats song of 2023, Trace Awards Song of the Year, Billboard Music Awards Top Afrobeat Song of the year and many others.
Beyond his musical talent, Rema’s fashion sense and charismatic stage presence also contributed to his growing popularity. He effortlessly blended contemporary style with traditional Nigerian elements, creating a unique visual identity that resonated with fans.

Rema’s impact on the music industry goes beyond his chart-topping hits. He has been vocal about social issues, using his platform to address topics like police brutality and inequality. In 2020, during the height of the #EndSARS protests in Nigeria, Rema used his social media presence to amplify the voices of those advocating for change.

In conclusion, Rema’s journey to stardom is a testament to the power of talent, digital platforms, and strategic collaborations. From his early days of making beats in Benin City to becoming an international sensation, Rema has navigated the music industry with grace and authenticity. As he continues to push boundaries and break barriers, it’s evident that Rema’s influence will leave a lasting impact on the world of music.

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