Mr. Dremo, Mr. Drizzy and a tale of finding balance in duality [Olamond Interview]

Born Raymond Aboriomoh in Ibadan, Oyo State, he was also bred in the city as the middle child of five children - Dremo is also a Pastor's son.

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If you are Dremo, you understand the concept of duality. A few weeks ago, he released his sophomore body of work, expectedly titled, ‘Code Name Vol. 2.’ While the producer-turned-rapper-turned-rapper wey dey sing song has since grown to accept the rudiments of his creative duality, he’s also finally making some sense of it.

Make no mistake, Dremo has not totally grasped an understanding of his own artistry, but he admits that flaw. Unlike many Nigerian artists who have been touched by the tenets of ego and with an unwillingness to be seen as ‘weak,’ Dremo uses the uncertainty as a strength. No wonder one of his greatest strengths as a rapper is flexibility of language of delivery and storytelling.

When you are that in touch with who you are, a blessing lies somewhere. I should know, I am one of Dremo’s biggest critics, but on the day this interview was conducted, none of the criticism mattered. It was time to get Dremo‘s perspective, tell his story and document the rudiments of his artistry. One of the reasons he constantly gets criticized is his lack of brand identity.

People know Dremo, but people do not know who Dremo is. He also admits this flaw, “Brother, me sef I know. Na one of the things wey I dey try correct be that. That’s one of the reasons we are having this chat – I know putting my story out there is part of the [brand] I’m trying to push.”ADVERTISING

The awareness, the strong recollection and Nollywood-esque story are a feature of this story from start to finish. The crux of that story is simple; Dremo isn’t here by accident, he has put in his aces and nine yards. He admitted that he might have conceded to pressure and made some mistakes in his journey, but this writer says he deserves everything he has and more.

While stuck home from COVID-19 lockdown – which was in full flow when this interview was conducted – Dremo was worried about Nigerians who live off wages. The lockdown has made Dremo – normally a hothead – calmer in certain situations.

While he’s engaged in giveaways during this period, he says speaks on giveaway that, “It’s just what it is – I’m just trying to help. Sometimes, it gets annoying when I tweet real life things and people are dropping account numbers. I get it, but it can be wild sometimes.”

Who Is Dremo?

No, he is not Yoruba. In fact, his Yoruba is not as strong as his use of it in music might suggest it is. Born Raymond Aboriomoh in Ibadan, Oyo State, he was also bred in the city as the middle child of five children – Dremo is also a Pastor’s son. The DMW artist jokes that having three brothers means his dad doesn’t really “send him” like that because his other brothers can jsimply replace him.

His dad does send him though. Dremo‘s first few studio sessions was paid for by his dad – a pastor who found out that his son was in love with the art of music. The song he recorded that day was performed at his school’s end-of-year party to a standing ovation – the first he received as an artist.ADVERTISING

Even though his mum is Yoruba, the language of choice in Dremo’s family was English language during his formative phases. In his words, “My Yoruba nor too {solid] like that. I can speak it, but you’ll know that it’s not my first language. My Edo is wack (laughs).”

Dremo, The Creative

While he’s now a rapper-singer, Dremo‘s first artistic gift was drawing/painting, but he has since left that to his younger brother of whom Dremo raves, “The boy is beast, I swear (grins proudly). I hope he can do more with his art than I did. I miss painting and drawing though.

“I dropped painting because I saw doing too much – music, production, poetry and painting. I had to cut something off to focus on something. I’m in love with art. I love the ability to look at people and sketch them. I know it’s not left me, but I haven’t tried.”

A graduate of George and Duke High School, Dremo dropped out of the National Open University after his second year to get a deal with DMW.

Dremo, The Artist

The name Dremo was given by Raymond‘s elder brother. As a young kid, though introverted, Raymond was stubborn so his brother thought the name ‘Dremo’ was ‘hard’ enough to suit his stubborn tendencies. Dremo then added context to the name and made ‘Dremo’ an acronym for, ‘Dropping Rhymes Enable My Originality.’ At first, he was Ray Dremo till it became Dremo.

Most people knew him in Ibadan around 2010 and the early 2010s with, ‘Normal Level’ but he has a past. As a teenager, Dremo was amazing at writing poetry which endeared him towards the ladies. He honed his skills at poetry as a means of apologizing to his parents anytime he messed up – he was around 10 at the time.

He then got so good that a girl shoot her shot at him. The girl put his hand on her body, but young Raymond‘s introverted tendencies took centre stage and he messed it up. His brothers don’t make music, but Dremo raves about his only sister’s voice, “Yoooo, if you hear her voice…

Dremo found the music in the form of his cousin. He says, “This guy was the Nigerian Tupac – he used to sag his jeans, have tattoos and all that. As a teenager, I was like, ‘N**ga, I want to be like you.’ For like four months, I would put on head warmer everywhere – even to bed. My mom had to beat me.

Around age 12, Dremo founded a rap group in school called C.J.R.D – the group name is taken off names of the four young men that made up the group – Creddie, James, Raymond and Daniel. He even sang me one of their old hooks and mocked himself.

On the opening track to Codename Vol. 1, Dremo raps about leaving the house for 18 months to lock himself in the studio and record. He confirms to me that was after he graduated high school. On the reason he left the house, he says, “I was a tired and [exuberant]. I would go into the studio and miss my curfew sometimes. My mom would lock the gate or something crazier, so I got tired and left.

“Throughout the time I left the house, my mom was always sending me crazy text messages,, ranting and all that. It got so crazy that the day I went back home, nobody could say anything anymore. But on their faces, I saw relief (laughs).”

Before he went back home, Dremo also had a manager, Adebo Ogundoyin who is now a politician and lawmaker in Oyo State. He also started producing beats in a bid to reduce costs – he was triggered by a bitter experience. A studio manager had told Dremo to buy him fuel and a can of Star Beer in order to record. After hustling N2,000, the studio manager disappointed Dremo and Flowolf.

Dremo then met a guy named Joe Baba at a GT Bank event in Ibadan who offered them free studio sessions. Dremo, Flowolf and Kida Kudz would walk from Jericho, Ibadan to Oluyole Estate to record in Joe Baba‘s studio.

Dremo, NOUN and quitting production

During his time out of the house, Dremo had recorded songs like, ‘Normal Level’ and ‘OBT.’ He had also signed to APG through which he met Sir Banko, who is currently the General Manager of Sony Music West Africa. Around this time, a creative underground was bubbling in Ibadan and it featured Dremo, Ichaba, Director Q, Terry Nowo, Flowolf, Tyekoon, Kida Kudz and so forth.

Dremo quit producing after this period because he felt he was doing too much – he was producing for himself, Flowolf and Ichaba. Quitting production also coincided with the moment Dremo met Fresh VDM who then assumed his sonic responsibilities. All the while, Dremo had started attending National Open University (NOUN), Ibadan.

But asides his music production, Dremo had also hated reading. He grasps things better with explanation than reading. When I asked him if he was dyslexic he says, “I think so – it could be, but it could also be a problem of short attention span. When I read long texts, I just zone out and read the opening and closing parts. But I’ll read this interview sha (laughs). If I see something on Instablog though, I also read and enjoy (laughs hard).”

Around 2014, Dremo moved to Lagos with Ichaba and Flowolf, but was still switching between Ibadan where he had a bigger following and demand. Dremo jokes, “Lagos for us at the time was like coming to Yankee. Sometimes, you get visa and sometimes you nor get (laughs). Sometimes, it was the three of us that came to Lagos and sometimes, it was just two.”

Whenever they were in Lagos though, they lived in Adebo Ogundoyin‘s house. Dremo had also moved his NOUN studies to the Lagos campus. While struggling to stay in school and concentrate, Dremo dropped out. The purpose of coming to Lagos was to connect with the right people and make music with acts like Legendury Beatz and more.

It got to a point that Dremo and his crew had no money anymore. As he rapped on ‘Nobody‘ off Code Name Vol. 1, a promoter duped them and gave them nothing.

The buzz was building and Dremo featured on ‘Sai Baba’ by Chopstixx alongside Ceeza Milli, Tuburna, Ichaba and D Nyra. The song’s title that tied into Buhari‘s campaign slogan during the 2015 Presidential Elections.

Dremo goes ‘loud’ for DMW

In late 2016, Banko with whom Dremo grew in Ibadan had become an associate of Davido’s. One day, Davido had just landed from Atlanta, Georgia, US when Banko called Dremo but Dremo had left Lagos hours earlier for Ibadan. He had to come back to Lagos and and straight to Davido‘s house. That night, Dremo went with Davido and his gang to the club. But before the club, Dremo smoked loud for the first time.

He jokes, “Davido was shooting the video for Osinachi (Remix) with Humblesmith and I already had the loud in my system. Brother, I come dey feel like say everybody dey look me dey yarn about me (laughs). I felt so uncomfortable that I had to go sleep inside David’s car. After the shoot, we went to David’s house and then to the club and then back to the house.

“Everybody was sleeping, but I couldn’t sleep because I had already slept in the afternoon. The insomnia led me to David’s studio where I found a laptop with no beat. In that space, I downloaded the beat to ‘Panda’ by Desiigner, saw a picture of Fela on the wall and recorded my freestyle about Fela.

“When David heard it, he said I had to complete the song which only had a hook and one verse. I completed the song, left the laptop in front of David’s door and went back to mainland.”

The song blew up on social media and Nigerian music blogs. ‘Panda‘ was a Billboard No. 1 single at the time, so the wave blew Dremo. He became a sensation that made ‘Nigerian Artists to watch out for’ lists and started to grow a fan base. More importantly, when Davido heard the song, it invigorated his faith in signing Dremo – over another rapper whom Dremo refuses to name.

As Dremo rapped on ‘Nobody,’ he signed to DMW on the same night as Mayorkun. It was April 1, 2016. Dremo says, “I didn’t even tell my parents till after I got signed because I came to Lagos for a verse, not to get signed. I didn’t see it coming.”

It was in those moments that a strong brotherhood was forged between Mayorkun and Dremo. The first time they met, they recorded three songs together and one of them was ‘Dapada’ which dropped two years later on Code Name Vol. 1. After that moment, Dremo and Mayorkun lived together in the same apartment till they moved to their respective homes.

After that period, Dremo became the toast of the streets as he recorded ‘Shayo’ with Chino Ekun, ‘Ole‘ by L.A.X and ‘Rambo‘ by Blaqbonez.

Code Name for criticism, doubt and identity issues

While Dremo was making his way up, the criticism started. Listeners had expectations of Dremo and they didn’t care about his feelings. I was one of those listeners and critics because I hated the way Dremo was caught in two spaces, but I wasn’t the only one.

Dremo also had a problem with his own identity and duality. He was a rapper for all intents and purposes, but after joining DMW, he had to face the reality that pop music ruled Nigeria and that caused him, “selection issues.” His identity then began to subtly scare him.

Like I told him during the interview, I felt he could have used to time to keep dropping Hip-Hop material on SoundCloud in form of EPs and mixtapes to develop his skill, test the limit of his artistry and build a larger fan base. Unknown to me, he was grappling with identity issues as they relate to his artistic direction and sound.

Even Dremo‘s management felt he should start singing – he could hear all other voices, but his own. Even though he agrees with my theory, he felt it was hard for him to even think beyond conforming at that point. After he released ‘Ojere,’ he was meant to drop a dance-rap song, but that had to be scrapped.

He says, “For sure (I agree with you), but don’t also forget that this is a boy with a dream, coming from Ibadan with an appetite to succeed – I needed to make it. I also didn’t know much about most of these things, I just wanted to make music. Now, everything is on the artist because it’s your name, but I realized these things you are saying much later.

‘If I didn’t go to the US, I probably wouldn’t have dropped ‘Code Name Vol. 1.’ It was my first time in the US and I felt a calm breeze on my body (laughs). I was an opening act on David’s tour. While there, I studied trap artists and other artists bending the Hip-Hop genre. That gave me the drive to go ahead and I recorded ‘Nobody.'”

Looking back now, Code Name Vol. 1 was a huge win. For the personal and identity issues that Dremo had with his music, it’s to his compliment that he could come up with that project. This writer is man enough to admit that he might have judged Dremo harshly. It’s funny because I liked Code Name Vol. 1 when it dropped.

Dremo or Hermit?

At events around this time, Dremo would sit by himself and just look at things. While he grew up as a loner who likes his own space, he was also going through mental health issues. He says, “Bro, I won’t like to you, I’m a real n**ga. At that time, I didn’t like going out. DJs would play a lot of songs and wouldn’t even play my song.

“It felt like they were rubbing something in my face, so I always felt out of place. When you see me outside at that time, I was forced to be there or I had to be there. I’m the kind of artist who loves to hear my songs play at events – I’m outside and I can’t hear people play my songs. I felt isolated. I don’t think it was depression, but I was overthinking things at the time.”

Nonetheless, that was last year. Dremo overcame this phase in 2019 after he started checking his own stats. But before Code Name Vol. 2, Dremo released Icen B4 Cakeon his birthday in 2019 and my review for it was harsh. However, we laughed about it and he clarified his line about Senator Elisha Abbo.

These days, Dremo even likes criticism more than he used to because he feels criticism is a part of art. But instead of believing everything, he takes the constructive criticism and never fights anybody.

Code Name Vol. 2

This time, Dremo got a fairer representation of the music and he trended for the whole day. People listened to his music for what it is and not what it’s meant to be. Listening to Code Name Vol. 2, you could see the effort and the thought that went into everything from A&R to sequencing – it was commendable.

That was me trying to find a bridge between selling rap and making music. That’s why the album features me saying relatable things to everybody even when I’m going crazy and talking back at critics. I was just living my truth and telling stories. Right now, I’m a rapper wey dey sing song, trying to make my money.

“I want people to be able to consume rap music without realizing it’s rap music because it’s easily digestible and less complex. It’s working because I’ve heard positive feedback from it. Some people say, ‘I don’t like rap, but I listen to yours.’ In Nigeria, there’s Jollof rice and Fried rice – Jollof is David, Wiz, Burna and so forth. Someone has to rep the Fried rice – not everyone will be Jollof,” Dremo says.

The oldest song on the album is ‘Sharp Sharp‘ featuring Falz while ‘Gugudemap’ was one of the last songs recorded. ‘Who’s Your Guy‘ was recorded just three days before long down commenced.

Just three days post-release, Code Name Vol. 2 hit 500,000 streams across all platform.

Dremo and YCee

On April 17, 2020, Dremo released Code Name Vol. 2 andfans pitted YCee against Dremo like they had been doing for years. Davido responded to a tweet that rated Dremo above YCee as a rapper. YCee replied Davido to jokingly claim he was better, but the matter escalated thus;

Nonetheless, Dremo says nothing is wrong, but that both rappers had to clear the air. He says, “We met in Ibadan some years ago – this was before he blew up with ‘Jagaban.’ He came to my house and played Mortal Kombat. Two weeks after that, YCee blew up – that’s my brother. The last time we spoke, we had to clear the air by speaking our minds to each other.

I felt he was feeling some type of way and taking jabs at me in his music and he felt I was feeling some type of way and taking jabs at him in my music. The thing is, we understand each other and this game. Everytime we speak, my mind opens up. David and YCee have also settled the stuff.

Dremo has since revealed that he and YCee are working on a joint project.

Dremo and DMW

These days, Dremo and Mayorkun have been slowly getting our of the DMW realm and forming their own cliques and movements. Dremo feels it’s only right that people who have been empowered by Davido to move out on their own. It was in this moment that Dremo confirmed that Davido does not collect royalty from any of his artists – anything you make is yours.

Going forward, Dremo says he would like to have a label in two years with at least two talented acts.

The end

By the end of our chat, Dremo and I discussed Nigerian Hip-Hop. The rapper feels Hip-Hop is thriving in Nigeria because Nigerian rappers don’t work together. He then blew my mind with one hot take, “Davido lives the lifestyle of a rapper…” and I agreed.

Going forward, Dremo will have release some videos. Dremo now owes me one bottle of cold Heineken. We move.

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