South Melbourne hip hop artist Remi Kolawole uses his lyrics to empower the people around him, to defy the hate of racism, and to let people know they're not alone.
However, the 25-year-old rapper had to go through his own trials as lonely "outsider" to get to this point. Remi was born to a loving Nigerian father and Caucasian mother, only to discover there was a whole world of discrimination outside the four walls of his home, once he began school.
"I went to school on the Mornington Peninsula. This is where I learnt I was black," he says, recalling racial slurs that were thrown at him on his first day of Kindergarten.
“Before that, I didn’t know I was an outsider. I spoke with a similar accent to all my friends. I had the same interests as they did. My mum was white, and my dad was black. They loved each other very dearly, so I didn’t think it would be any different outside our home. I quickly learnt that this equality only lived inside my head.”
"I quickly learnt that this equality only lived inside my head." - Remi
After that rude awakening, it was hard for Remi not to see racism, sexism, homophobia, and any other form of discrimination everywhere he went.
A marked moment in his life was when he joined his high school football team, where Remi found several of his teammates were not only racist, but "misogynistic". It was an experience that, he said, in addition to his daily bullying, made him feel like discrimination was the norm. It took him a year after graduating from school to clear his head from what he calls this "conditioning".
"This is not to say all my friends were racist, women haters," he concedes. "Most of the ones who were, didn’t even realise they were, they were just mimicking their parents and the sh*t they saw on telly."
It wasn't until Remi left school and began university, where he was studying to be a nurse, that he discovered rap and the freedom it gave him to express himself. He was 19-years-old at the time.
"My friend Matt dared me to write a rap. I was a fan of rap and had written a verse once at school, but had left it until that moment.
“When I wrote my first rap, I felt this freedom. The ability to finally say, do, and be whatever I wanted was right in front of me. Even if it was only for three-and-a-half minutes in this Garageband session," he says.
Taken over by his new passion for lyrics, Remi started trading in his university study sessions for writing ones and soon enough new opportunities for his art began to present themselves. A friend of his introduced him to her boyfriend, a beatmaker named "J"; their pivotal collaboration began.
"We started working together after that, and quickly became brothers. Both his parents were from Cape Town. They’d left during Apartheid just to have him. I now knew someone, with serious wisdom, who understood what it was to be different, to be kept down for no more than your melanin," Remi says.
J opened Remi's eyes to a whole new world of multiculturalism that lived within the Australian music scene. The experience, Remi says, helped him come to terms with his own biracial identity, and put the conditioning of his youth behind him.
“Since then, in myself, I feel everything has begun to align. Sure racism hits me every day. I’m reminded constantly that I am black. But I'm not ashamed anymore," he says.
Remi hopes to continue using his music, his lyrics, and his raps to bring people together.
He says, "I understand it’s a gift to be different and I want to make sure anybody of any colour, religion, sexual orientation, et cetera feels the same way.”
Remi makes up one of ten 'social influencers' set to go-live on SBS 2 Facebook this month as part of SBS Uncensored: a project where young Australians can talk openly about what issues matter to them.
Remi was live @ 12 midday on Friday, July 15 on SBS 2. Catch up below & like the page to get a notification for the next one!
Remi's new album 'Divas and Demons’ is out soon, for more info head to remikolawole.com