Not much will convince me to visit Elephant and Castle, but today I’m here to interview Rejjie Snow, a rapper in London by way of Savannah, Georgia and, somewhat incongruously, Dublin. Over the past few months, Rejjie Snow has toured with Madonna, premiered the video for “All Around The World” featuring girl du jour Lily-Rose Depp and been photographed by Harley Weir for a French Connection campaign. Success, it seems, is written across his cheekbones.
The man sitting opposite me on his king-size leather bed is not the Rejjie Snow of 62,000 Instagram followers. Sure, his face is unmistakably the same as the one that stares out from my Insta feed, but in almost every other way he is different to the man heralded as 2016’s answer to Tyler, the Creator.
Over the following days, I read over the transcript of our conversation finding more questions than answers. Even the most fundamental aspects of Rejjie Snow’s persona are conflicting. Firstly, there’s the matter of his accent. He’s Irish, as a RevolverProject.com YouTube video from 2012 clearly shows, but today any hint of this broad Dublin accent has been replaced by a soft drawl straight out of America’s Deep South. Secondly, there’s his age. His Wikipedia page, along with a backlog of interviews, states that he is 22. In our interview he verbally confirms this. But on Twitter a few days later, he tells a fan that he is 19. Confused, I email him to double check. “I’m 19,” he replies. And then there’s the small question of his ever-changing name. Alex Anyaegbunam. Alex Butler. Lecs Luther. Rejjie Snow.
Alex Anyaegbunam and Alex Butler
“My government name is Alex Anyaegbunam,” he tells me. “Anyaegbunam is Nigerian and that comes from my Dad. My mum’s second name is Butler and I would use that at times. I would always be insecure about Anyaegbunam as people would say some crazy shit and teachers would always butcher the name.” Paradoxically, this childhood insecurity was undercut by something greater:Alex’s desire to stand out.
“I think I’ve always been like a black sheep. I just always did different things. When my friends were playing sports I would do sports but then also do dance classes. I did tap-dancing for like seven years and pantomime.” Past interviewers have made the claim that aged eleven, Alex stood up on stage to sing with PharrellWilliams. A few years later, the same heady cocktail of talent, bravado and luck took him on a scholarship to high school in Savannah, Atlanta. Not bad for a boy from Dublin perhaps, until you consider that Anyaegbunam attended Jesuit private school Belvedere College, which boasts Ireland’s other greatest export, James Joyce, amongst its alumni. “At school I didn’t really apply myself to the best of my abilities,” he tells me. “I was just waiting to get out of school so I could do my own thing ‘cause life is short and I ain’t trying to live somebody else’s dream. I had this all figured out from young.” Clearly.
As early as 2011, when, if he is currently 19, he would have been aged just 14 or 15, Alex was putting out tracks under the pseudonym Lecs Luther. Although his first song, “Dia Dhuit”, got 50,000 YouTube hits within two weeks of its release, Alex is now surprisingly quick to distance himself from Lecs. “Lecs Luther was just a stupid name I came up with at some point and I put out two or three songs with it.” Over the years that followed, Luther morphed into Rejjie Snow. “I had an epiphany when I was like 18, to take it seriously. I cut off a bunch of people that were like doing some negative stuff. I was getting lost in the whole world [of] doing bad things… So I just made a decision when I was 18 to become Rejjie Snow.”
Rejjie Snow was born on the Internet, his constant stream of selfies and provocative tweets fuelling the support of hundreds of thousands of followers across Twitter and Instagram. Not only has the Internet provided Alex with a platform to find success first as Lecs Luther and subsequently as Rejjie Snow, but it has enabled him to shed his identity as a Catholic schoolboy from Dublin and emerge the other side of the computer screen as a global star. My question though, is why? In Alex’s words, “[Rejjie Snow] is definitely an alter ego, it’s definitely a character that I can just be: this crazy guy… I’m quite shy as a person so at least with this person I can just do some crazy shit.”
Once concealed behind the safety of an iPhone screen, Alex is able to morph into Rejjie Snow, the person I was looking for in a luxury flat in Elephant and Castle. It is this person who opened for Madonna on her Rebel Heart tour (“that’s just some shit that happened like a month ago. I didn’t even get to meet her. I was looking forward to a kiss or something.”), who romances Insta-girls across the globe, who makes videos like “Blakkst Skn” and “Lost In Empathy”. The importance of constantly crafting an image is clearly critical to Alex Anyaegbunam.
“I think videos are important. It’s the most important representation for an artist because people look at your videos more than [listen to your] music.” What then, do Rejjie Snow’s videos reveal about him? In “Blakkst Skin”, Rejjie Snow is trapped in a sewer. He gazes hopefully up towards a grate, and beyond that, the street above. A woman stands over the grate and pisses toxic yellow mucus, turning his skin a luminous yellow. When I describe the video as “surreal”, Alex acts surprised. “How so?”, he asks blankly. Our conversation moves to the Noisey-premiered video for “Lost In Empathy”, which features Rejjie Snow wandering through a barren landscape on the run from albino hunters. I ask him why. “I wanted [it to] represent me being that kid that was just lost in this world.” At last, Rejjie Snow begins to speak the truth.