Remi Kolawole speaks out against government and media frenzy surrounding Melbourne's African gang problem

DROPPING BEATS: Melbourne hip-hop duo Remi are planning to release a new single next month in time for their headline show at Dashville's Gum Ball festival.
DROPPING BEATS: Melbourne hip-hop duo Remi are planning to release a new single next month in time for their headline show at Dashville's Gum Ball festival.

AS a proud Nigerian-Australian Remi Kolawole has seethed with anger over the summer at headlines declaring Melbourne has an African gang crime problem.

Fuelled by media reports, many have accused both the Federal and Victorian Governments of magnifying the situation for political gain.

Kolawole, one half of hip-hop duo Remi with producer “Sensible J” Justin Smith, is one of those critics.

“It’s quite clearly a political campaign and it’s always unfortunate when politicians make it quite clear that they’re only here to represent a portion of the community by pitting different communities against each other in the hope it pays off in votes,” Kolawole said.

“It is sad and what is just as sad is when people believe it and let that fear play into their psyche and let the government win.”

The 26-year-old has always spoken openly about racism. 

Last year he appeared on the TV program SBS Uncensored to share his personal experience of racism growing up on the Mornington Peninsula and he has also written about the issue on his albums Raw x Infinity (2014) and Divas and Demons (2016).

Remi ft. Sampa The Great - For Good

Kolawole has been in the studio in recent months working on Remi’s third album. The first single is expected to be released next month before his headline performance at Dashville’s Gum Ball music festival.

After Divas and Demons was dominated by Kolawole’s battles with depression, the new batch of songs are carrying a more positive outlook.

“It’s quite varied,” he said. “When you write albums that are as personal as the last one, you look at it critically and move forward from there because that’s all you can do.”

Kolawole’s cutting lyrics and braggadocios style, combined with Smith’s smooth production secured the duo the triple j Unearthed Artist Of The Year in 2013, which was followed by the Australian Music Prize in 2014 for Raw x Infinity.  

“It definitely helped more than it inhibited,” Kolawole said of the awards. “As far as pressure, the worst pressure comes from ourselves, trying to live up to the standards we hold to ourselves against the people that have come before us.”

The Gum Ball has previously been dominated by alternative rock, blues and folk artists but this year’s festival will feature Remi and fellow hip-hop posse Butterfingers as headliners. 

“I’m always excited to play outside of your allocated genre,” Kolawole said.

Catch Remi alongside Butterfingers, The Bamboos, The Aints, The Cribs, Rocket Science, Ben Salter, The Creepshow and many more at The Gum Ball from April 27 to 29.

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