French-influenced Rejjie has room to grow

Photo courtesy of 300 Entertainment

Rejjie Snow, the Irish transplant and 300 signee, is obsessed with France, especially Paris. It seems as though the newfound fascination with the country permeates every aspect of his new album, “Dear Annie,” which he released after announcing it almost a year and a half ago.

The most obvious being the French singing and speaking, but also the production and general attitude and vibe that Rejjie delivers. It seems he aimed to become a type of modern Serge Gainsbourg, singing over soft instrumentals with graphic, somewhat unintentionally funny lyrics. Like the beloved French crooner, Rejjie mixes talk of love and lust into a singular concept, not even considering any difference they may have, at one point mentioning that “love is a f***ing sin” as if talking about sex. It helps that he was assisted by the buzzy, young Parisian producer Lewis OfMan, who delivers some vintage-inspired disco beats.

OfMan is one of three main producers on the project. Another is Rahki, the Grammy-winning producer of the song “i” and frequent collaborator of Kendrick Lamar. And lastly, there is Cam O’bi, whose name will be familiar to those familiar with the new Rap-R&B wave started by Chance the Rapper and his peers in Chicago. Cam has been an integral component to an emerging  sound that can be described as an anti-trap movement, the other major musical influence in “Dear Annie.”

The anti-trap movement that Rejjie has jumped on has been developing for a couple years now. After R&B reached a peak of The Weeknd clones, the deep empty darkness started to exhaust audiences and artists. The counterpart of rappers soon followed, and artists like Chance, Noname and notably Tyler the Creator, began to also take on a sunnier demeanor. “Dear Annie” is the spiritual child of Tyler’s “Flower Boy,” though Rejjie’s attempt lacks the emotionality of its precursor.

While Rejjie has an effortless, downtempo cool, the ideas of the album start to fold and overlap too much as the album progresses. There are clear standouts, like “Egyptian Luvr,” the insanely replay-able Amine featuring and Kaytranada produced head-bopper. “Annie” also stands out; it has a super on-brand feature from Jesse Boykins III. But too many of the songs feel like another version of another song on the album. If played on shuffle, the album could be used as a challenge of short term memory by trying to figure out which introductions match with which songs. Is that “Mon Amour?” Nope, it is “23.”

That does not mean they are bad songs, though. Just about every song on the album can be called a good song. A rare accomplishment in an era of increasingly overlong, bloated albums. Perhaps this is why 300 decided to go with an unconventional release and preceded the full album’s drop with two EPs containing almost half the material. Every track is a great single on its own, but when putting everything together into a cohesive album, a bit of the individual luster is lost.

“Dear Annie” is far from Rejjie’s magnum opus, and that is OK. It is, after all, a debut album. The first in a hopefully long stretch; and Rejjie’s trajectory is exciting. Back in 2013 when J. Cole wanted to pull a Kanye on Kanye and set his album “Born Sinner” to be released the same day as “Yeezus,” Rejjie beat them both out of the gate with his now highly acclaimed EP “Rejovich” for a brief moment on iTunes. Of course, it was entirely negligible in a statistical sense, but it was a kernel that gave a hint as to where this young Irish MC was headed.

“Dear Annie” sees Rejjie return from his obsession with becoming famous to a much healthier point where he just wants to make good music. His pop sensibility has slightly dulled the weirdness that made him so cool in 2013, but there is no mistaking that almost sleepy, baritone voice spitting something MF DOOM would approve of.