April 15, 2024
Review

Why Rema is Culture Icon 2023

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  • January 11, 2024
  • 4 min read
Why Rema is Culture Icon 2023

By Chude Jideonwo

IT is impossible not to be inspired by Nigeria’s new Afrobeats generation. They have risen on the courage and chutzpah of the previous generation, which includes the likes of 2face, P-Square, Freestyle (now Mista Styles), Sasha, Ruggedman, the Remedies, Bouqui and others, and they deserve credit for seizing the moment, casting out convention, and leaning in.

While major attention is focused on the likes of Davido, the iconoclastic Burna Boy, the fearless Wizkid, and the brilliant Tems, I believe it is their younger sibling, Divine ‘Rema’ Ikubor, that fully captures the moment and its limitless potential and range of possibilities.

People often think Nigerian creatives, especially its Afrobeats clan, need to be a certain way: gregarious, combative, other-focused. People think they have to surround themselves with activity and keep churning out ‘content’. People expect them to stoke rivalries, rile up their base, and thump their chests.

However, Rema has remained as himself: silent, focused and ferocious. I remember watching a raft of his interviews two years ago and thinking: This is the one who will remain, who will outlast and who will be unforgettable.

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‘Calm Down’ crooner, Rema

The major reason for his success is, of course, talent and hard work. But talent is not scarce in Nigeria, and on average, everyone works very hard. So, I think the deeper reason for his success is his sense of inner-directedness. He doesn’t refer to anyone but himself. He is certain about who he is, what he is capable of and how far he can go.

His rise, as I have observed, is not driven by fear or competition. It is driven by a deep understanding that he has a unique contribution to the world, and he alone can make that contribution, so there is no need to pay attention to what anyone else is doing.

It may seem odd to draw this comparison, but it’s not if you’ve been paying attention to him: Rema is what spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra referred to as ‘self-referential’ three decades ago. This is somewhat unusual because Rema is a staunch member of GenZ. Without judgment, it is a generation that is convinced that it must always be visible, always be heard and that the only game that counts is hustle and grind. Of course, the roots of this energy come from millennials, so no one should be too quick to get on their high horse.

But remarkably, Rema has eschewed all of that to succeed in his own way: listen to his own voice, pay attention to his own spirit, and dance to his own tune, earning the African song with one billion streams on Spotify with ‘Calm Down.’

He is an icon and, almost inevitably, will end up becoming a legend. Because, you see, even Grammy award-winning stars come and go, raves end, and trends expire, but legends? They matter for eternity. Those who have their eyes on the eternal and who see beyond the fickle here and now end up truly being those that matter. Rema teaches us that it never goes out of style to know oneself, to be oneself fully, and to walk one’s path, however lonely. In this way, he is a voice – beyond the music – crying in the wilderness, a prophet speaking softly to his generation and age, telling them to calm down. In a time of great spiritual, emotional, and mental health crises, one can only hope that people will listen.

* Jideowo is a media practitioner with network of media products across TV, film and podcasts, telling stories that enable and strengthen the mind, heart and spirit

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