Rema – ‘Heis’ review: a divine return full of feel-good floor fillers

Rema, photo by Ricky Alvarez

Rema is a man with something to prove – especially after a polarising 2023 O2 London show that left some fans disturbed by supposedly Satanic imagery. It’s no surprise that the musician named Divine Ikubor would want to correct the record. He does just that on surprise album ‘Heis’, an 11-track spectacle full of feverish feel-good floor fillers to bring out that primal feeling of joy.

  • READ MORE: Rema: ambitious afrorave pioneer with fans in FKA twigs and Skepta

‘Heis’ opens with the Afrorave powerhouse’s signature chuckle, but takes you to unknown territory with the enthralling, synth-heavy ‘March Am’ and ‘Azaman’. Blending orchestral strings, thumping drums and (on the former) a car’s revving engine, these energetic gems reaffirm Rema as a true rhythm scientist.

Here and throughout the record, the Nigerian juggernaut understands how to wield his voice as an additional instrument. On ‘Hehehe’, he raises his voice to a mocking squeak, declaring, “I’m not gonna take it easy on my hater”. The frenetic ‘Ozeba’ feels nostalgic for 2010s Afrobeats – and his flow feels similar to the rolling drums we hear in other tracks on ‘Heis’. While being unapologetically daring, Rema reminds the world that you can’t play with greatness.

The 24-year-old also goes back to what’s recently been successful for him: amapiano. Last year’s ‘Ravage’ EP was a suave collection of earworms such as ‘DND’ and ‘Don’t Leave’ – this year he recreates the same magic with ‘Yayo’ and ‘Benin Boys’. The pulsing 808s and hissing hi-hats flood the ears – you’re bound to try your best to do the Umlando dance to these infectious pick-me-ups. On the latter, he and fellow rising Afropop star Shallipopi throw a vibrant celebration of their hometown of Benin City and confidently say they’re worthy of a king’s honour: “Na we be the pride of Benin, Oba sef suppose give us medal”.

Rema tries everything on ‘Heis’. Conductor Williams-style production opens ‘War Machine’ before we get into a head-shaking, confidence-oozing anthem with one of Nigeria’s biggest exports, Odumodublvck. Rema goes back to the syrupy high register we love him for on ‘Villain’, which layers a soul-catching amapiano bassline with a moody sample of the song ‘A&W’ by Lana Del Rey – someone he’s adored for years.

It ends with the pensive, balladic ‘Now I Know’, where he reflects on the love he has and has lost, but ‘Heis’ ultimately serves its purpose and shows who Rema truly is: a dancefloor mastermind that will be a face of Afropop for decades to come.


Rema ‘Heis’ album art

  • Release date: July 11, 2024
  • Record label: Marvin Records/Jonzing World

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