Certainly, if you’ve been frequenting the site over the past 12-18 months or so you’ve come across a handful of posts on Melbourne, Australia-based emcee REMI and his producer and collaborator Sensible J. The duo rose to national prominence in their homeland with 2014’s critically and commercially successful Raw X Infinity, an album that was named Triple J‘s Album of the Week and the Independent Hip Hop Album of the Year by the Australian Independent Record Association, a well as receiving international attention from OkayAfrica, JUICE, laut.de, NPR‘s All Things Considered among others. And adding to a growing profile, the duo were named “Australian Breakthrough Artist of the Year,” and followed that up with touring nationally and across both the UK and EU with Danny Brown, Vic Mensa, De La Soul, Joey Bada$$ and Damon Albarn.
Last year saw the release of the duo’s critically applauded sophomore full-length effort, Divas and Demons, which paired their strengths — an incredibly adept lyricist and storyteller, whose stories possessed an uncommonly earnest, soul-baring honesty and an incredibly dope and soulful producer, whose sound and production nods at the great J. Dilla, DJ Premier and others; in fact, you’d probably recall “For Good,” a charmingly coquettish love song in which its male and female narrators have misunderstandings, bicker and fight, cheat and drive each other insane in a youthfully dysfunctional relationship featuring a guest spot from Sydney, Australia-based poet, visual artist and singer/songwriter Sampa The Great rhyming and singing over a warm and soulful production that nodded at The Roots and Erykah Badu‘s “You Got Me;” “Substance Therapy,” the album’s second single featured Remi rhyming honestly about how drinking, drugging and womanizing as an escape from himself and his depression only managed to further mire him in depression paired with a production that emphasizes the rapid vacillation of self-loathing, self-doubt, fear, anger, and desperate escapism of the severely depressed; “Lose Sleep” was a deeply personal song that drew from REMI’s own experiences a mixed race man in Australia and in the world — and in some way, he wanted the song to be a message to other mixed race kids about that weird feeling of feeling as though you could never quite fit in; but that his experience and story, as of those of others matters in a much larger story; and the last single I wrote about “Contact Hi/High/I” featured REMI along with a guest spot from Hiatus Kaiyote‘s Silent Jay rhyming and singing about what seems to be a permanent state of adolescence, which constantly validates itself through vice and excess.
Interestingly enough, this year marks Sensible J’s solo debut — and his first single “Fire Sign” is a a collaboration with his friends and frequent collaborators REMI and Sampha the Great, which features the two rhyming over a thumping and swaggering, soulful groove, reminiscent of the aforementioned J. Dilla, thanks to a production featuring twinkling keys, boom bap-like drum programming and a ridiculous, anthemic hook; in fact, in a playful turn, the trio pay homage to A Tribe Called Quest — and it shouldn’t be surprising because much like the legendary Tribe and De La Soul, the Melbourne-based trio specialize in an overwhelmingly soulful, thoughtful hip-hop, serving as a reminder that the genre and its practitioners have always been wildly diverse; after all, NWA, Tribe, De La, Public Enemy, Kid ‘N’ Play, MC Lyte and others all existed simultaneously.