As one of Australia’s most promising hip hop exports, the journey of Remi has been an impressive one to watch. His visit to the Northcote Social Club on Friday 12th June marked his return to his hometown after string of successful overseas shows. It was his second and original Melbourne date set for his Call It What You Want tour.
I arrived in time to catch Hau, who up until then I had known as the dude who wrote the hip hop section in the long-gone J Mag. He and his DJ Crystal were there to bring the relaxed vibes, with Hau working two mics and Crystal bopping away behind the decks. Whilst clearly a seasoned performer, the crowd took a while to butter up. Crystal was an absolute queen, both on the decks and as a guest vocalist on one track: a “talented person regardless of whether she is a lady or a guy”. Whilst the crowd’s engagement was lacklustre, it felt like a misjudgement on our behalf as opposed to Hau not dedicating himself to his performance. However, Hau’s final message is one we could all do with getting behind: “Spread the vibes and the positivity and the L.O.V.E.”
Remi hushed the crowd instantly by stepping behind the mic in shadows and launching into the relentless bare rhymes of ‘Raw x Infinity’. Before too long, his sidekick Sensible J joined in on the drums, whilst an erratic lightshow illuminated the stage in sections. The tension and tempo of the performance built before stopping, the room erupting with noise. The set slid into the bouncy ‘F.O.H (for opinionated humans)’. The crowd were a good bunch, who didn’t have an irritating attachment to their phones as seen at a lot of gigs. They were, as Remi acknowledged, mostly young, with a group of outliers at the back refusing to let their age stop them from kicking it.
The set was peppered from the high energy picks from album Raw x Infinity, whilst a few from his most recent release, Call It What You Want EP, a project that samples non hip hop artists Remi nd his team appreciate. Towards the middle of the night, Remi called a collection of his friends – Hau, NFA Jones, Baro and 1/6 – onstage to freestyle. Alas, only two appeared immediately, which is “what you get for running on African time”. They started the track with the three of them, before Baro and co. sheepishly made their way onstage. The stage was crowded, but it didn’t matter to the tight-knit group. It was charming to see the friendship between the performers and the variance in their individual styles. This performance, more than any other point in the night, was representative of Remi’s approach to music as a whole: inclusive, diverse and incredibly fun.
As he noted, the posse joining him onstage were “as brown and as beige as it gets”, before congratulating the audience for supporting their diverse locals and warning us to not let “Channel Nine get into your mind”. This preluded his hard-hitting commentary of Australian racial politics, ‘Ode to Ignorance’. The more introspective section of the night continued dedication to the people who never feel like fit in, on ‘Weirdos (from Planet HOB)’. Before the night launched back into the more optimistic.
Whilst encouraging the crowd to go crazy was an integral part of the set, Remi reaches past that to connect with his crowd on a deeper level; asking questions, getting us to do the two-step and being all-round genuine and present. He ensures he is not just an energetic performer, but also a gentlemen and excellent self-assigned party host to boot. Confidence, charisma and comradery with the crowd and his fellow artists are the building blocks to Remi’s shows. This night was no different, with every person receiving an invite to the party.