“Being in America was cool; I learned so much and it gave me loads of confidence and trust in myself, but it also kind of taught me just how unique Dublin is, and how hard it is to find that same hometown familiarity elsewhere.” Rejjie’s soccer scholarship took in one year of high school and 18 months of college before he felt the urge to break away and pursue music instead. If deciding to leave everyone you know behind and move to another continent at 17 is a big step, then dropping all of that to go home and forge a path in music at 20 is an even bigger one, but it’s a step that’s paying off.
His earliest lyrics, he says, “were just about killing people and drugs, the usual cliches”, but gradually Rejjie started to find inspiration in the reality of the life he’d returned to in Dublin. “It didn’t make sense to mimic American rappers ‘cos Dublin isn’t like anywhere else in the world; it’s a whole different reality. As I got older I started talking about that. It’s so unique, and people always wanna hear or see something new.
His Irish upbringing also comes through in lyrics that revel and rejoice in their familiar references to teenage house parties, graffiti raids, hard booze and soft drugs; you imagine that Rejjie is the only rapper ever signed to 300 Entertainment with bars about the IRA, playing FIFA and manses, the name for the ecclesiastical dwellings inhabited by religious ministers in Ireland. The strongest reverence on Dear Annie, though, is reserved for women, and love and sex with women: “Going out to parties in Dublin and discovering girls opened up a whole new world to my art, expression, inner feelings and stuff... the house I grew up in was very cold in that sense; I wouldn’t have been able to express myself emotionally, so girls gave me someone to talk to about how I felt.”
Football and graffiti also served as gateways into an interest in fashion that is still borne out today in the way he dresses, a collision of the latest US sportswear and classic UK street style forged in his early experiences of Dublin’s terraces and rail depots. “I’d go to football games here and everyone was wearing CP Company. That was the first time I was introduced to it. As a kid you’d gravitate towards that – you’d see people wearing CP and it felt like it gave them some stature. I remember being about 11 and seeing the goggles on the hoods and being amazed by it.”