Rejjie Snow sends love, brings groovy style to ‘Dear Annie’

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Grade: 4.0/5.0

In Rejjie Snow’s latest album, Dear Annie, the Irish rapper constructs a dynamic album that draws on old influences to create new hits. It’s an album that captures a unique balance of vocals, beats and lyricism — a balance so smooth in its production that its listener can just ride the waves of its beats and let the lyrics flow.

Dear Annie is an album that burrows itself into the darker corners of love. At the outset of the album, Snow introduces Annie. Singers clap and children sing “Dear Annie” as Snow’s voice eases into the melody of “Hello.” The vibe shifts in just a few seconds, and the real tone of the album comes in. It’s a jazzy, hip-hop beat that carries through the rest of the minute and a half of the track. It ends with “Dear Annie, set my lover free,” fading out into an a cappella chant of “Dear Annie.” Even in the beginning, Snow turns the laid-back, gospel expectations for his album on their head. It’s his ability to meld sounds that gives this album life.

This shift in sounds lends itself to the multi-faceted narrative of love written by Snow. Led by an anonymous host whose name is bleeped out in “The Wonderful World of Annie, the album spends its moments running after the elusive love interest of Snow. The talk show narrator is a device seen on hip-hop albums time and time again, from Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE to the ever-recurring theme of Golf Radio in Tyler the Creator’s work. Nevertheless, when Snow uses this device, it becomes a valuable guide through the album. The sonorous, raspy voice helps to unravel Snow’s lyrics — it even checks in on him as he spills his heart out in tracks like “Mon Amour. The device not only leads the listener, but it brilliantly embeds the artist’s insights into the album.

In addition to the album’s strong narrative center, its production value is astounding. Ranging from Cam O’bi, who worked with Chance the Rapper on Acid Rap, and Rahki, the man behind Kendrick Lamar’s “i,” the album features a slew of talented musicians who work to create an eclectic album — an album that nevertheless maintains a strong, central sense of style through Snow’s lyricism. “Egyptian Luvr,” featuring Aminé and Dana Williams, and produced by DJ and beatmaker Kaytranada, is a standout track. The static-filled beat leads into the melodic repetitions of Williams’ “The past, the past, the past.” The delicate play of beats with Snow’s smooth verses makes for a song that provides respite from the heartbreak that underlies this album, creating its own distinct, groovy sound.

Although this album is stylistically strong, there’s no unique piece to distinguish Rejjie Snow from his hip-hop predecessors. His low, almost monotone vocals feel like an imitation of Tyler the Creator. He shouts out beatmaker Madlib in “Pink Lemonade,” highlighting how much Rejjie’s style in the album mirrors that of the iconic DJ. Even though the narrator element is a welcome addition to the album, it’s still just a rehash of an old trick. While Snow creates a great album, it’s hard to feel like it’s more than just a conglomeration of familiar parts.

Nevertheless, toward the end of the album, the last few tracks demonstrate a more experimental shift. After “Skateboard P Intermission,” “LMFAO” turns the album from its mellower introduction songs to bouncier, more invigorating tracks. The songs are a little angier and a little more electronic — they draw a stronger focus to the vast range of Snow’s rapping and vocal abilities. These final tracks bring a warm, old-school vibe to the album — ending Rejjie Snow’s latest on an optimistic note, exhibiting his potential to be a standout figure in the hip-hop genre.

Annalise Kamegawa covers music. Contact her at [email protected].