Rema and Swizz Beatz discuss purpose and authenticity in music

US magazine Rolling Stone has released a conversation between Nigerian Afrobeats star Rema and veteran hip hop producer Swizz Beatz in which they shed light on the importance of purpose, authenticity and maintaining quality in the music industry.

Rema and Swizz Beatz. Photo: Gustavo Soriano.

Published last week, this exchange is part of the recurring series known as Musicians on Musicians, offering a platform for artists to engage in discussions about their lives and careers.

In the interview, both musicians discuss the impact of their work, with Rema sharing his goal of changing the game, while Swizz Beatz encourages Rema to stay ahead and maintain a focus on quality.

Rema, behind the 2022 debut album Rave & Roses and 2023’s Ravage EP, and whose ‘Calm Down’ single featuring US act Selena Gomez recently became the first African artist-led track to cross 1 billion streams on Spotify, reflects on how the culture recognises his influence despite being relatively new to the industry. He examines the significance of being called “the prince of Afrobeats” and the doors he has opened.

“When I named myself the future, that was just an unconscious responsibility,” he says. “But when the game, by itself, calls you ‘the prince of Afrobeats’, or you’re this or you’re that, it’s like the universe has picked you, you know? The culture cannot deny that I’ve opened doors. Even though I’m just four years in.”

The pair also touch on the importance of being original in the music industry and the value of staying true to oneself. “Just tell yourself the truth,” Rema notes. “Do you wanna copy, or do you wanna create? Do you want it the easy way, or do you want it the hard way? Because a lot of people feel like, once they bloom, it’s up. Some people like it for the flashiness, [or] to get the girls, the jewellery, the cars.”

They then delve into their creative processes, with Rema revealing that he prefers to record quickly, capturing various vibes and moods in his music.

“I don’t like to be in one idea too long,” he says. “So when I record I make a sad song, and then the next one is a party song, and then a sad song, and it’s just different vibes. I really have fun with producers because sometimes, I’ll be like, ‘Where is that folder, that one where you hide weird beats that you know nobody is gonna vibe to?’ Because we know in your free time, you guys just create stuff. Those are the jams I like.”

The pair also talk about the role of collaboration and seeking help in music production. Swizz Beatz emphasises the need for artists and producers to recognise their strengths and weaknesses and not be afraid to seek assistance from others with specific skills.

Rema talks about his dedication to the mixing process, sharing that he goes through multiple iterations to ensure the best quality. On his part, Swizz Beatz stresses the importance of the car test in evaluating music.

The conversation concludes with a point about the immortality of music and the profound impact it can have on the world. “When you find your purpose, I feel like the heavens rejoice,” Rema says. “‘Here we go with someone who has found a fresh frequency to bring into the world.’ I don’t know about superhero movies or all of that, but one way to be immortal is music.”