Signed under Nigerian record label Mavin, the young rapper Rema topped the charts worldwide with his hit single “Calm Down”.
The singer has been steadily on the rise ever since his debut, counting on an ever-growing fanbase and racking up international fame.
At the moment of writing, “Calm Down” stands at almost 388,000,000 streams on Spotify, while its viral remix with US artist Selena Gomez achieved a whopping 717,512,920 streams on the same music platform.
The 2022 international hit made history when it skyrocketed to the top of The Official MENA Chart, shortly after the launch of the chart itself.
That makes “Calm Down” the first-ever No.1 hit on The Official MENA Chart.
The hit – the second lead single of Rema’s debut album Rave & Roses – talks about the singer’s quest for love.
At a party, the singer meets a girl in a yellow dress that stands out from the others and decides to try to get closer to her.
The hit bagged several nominations and steadily placed at the top of international charts, reaching Top 3 in Belgium, France, Portugal and Netherlands (amidst other countries).
In 2023, the remix featuring Selena earned a nomination at the Global Awards as Best Social Trended Song.
On 29 November 2022, the IFPI (Federation of the Phonographic Industry) announced that the track was the first ever to top the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) music streaming chart.
The recently launched Official MENA chart is a regional platform where “music fans will be able to celebrate the top streaming tracks on a weekly basis with the regional top 20 tracks.”
Announced every Thursday, the weekly Top 20 collects data from 13 MENA countries, covering a population of more than 300 million people combined.
The markets monitored by the platform are Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.
Moreover, the regional chart keeps track of all the major streaming platforms at all times: from YouTube to Deezer, Spotify and Apple Music, the service aims to be as inclusive as possible.
The platform also allows users to follow artists and record labels, to keep up with their favourite names as well as with the most recent trends.
Rema, who is only 23 but certainly not new to success, was excited to hear the news.
“I’d like to thank all of my fans across the region who streamed ‘Calm Down’ and helped it to become the first ever Official MENA Chart #1!
I am so happy that you are enjoying the song and very proud to be the first artist to reach #1. Thanks also to the team at my label for their support.” – Rema on the IFPI website
Born Divine Ikubor, from the get-go Rema has changed the face of the young MENA music scene: a vibrant world that lives on social media, and that mixes the traditional with the innovative in a bubbly research for creative change and trending sounds.
“I listened to Afrobeats growing up, but I never thought that was something I would do,” Rema said during an interview with Pitchfork. “I really, really loved rapping.”
Incorporating different waves and styles, with a trap background and a talent to blend more traditional beats with ones that wink to the international scene, Rema is a pioneer of what he calls “Afrorave.”
The genre collocates itself as a subgenre of the popular Afrobeats style, adding to it influences from Arabian and Indian sounds and sealing the deal with rap and trap vibes.
Rema puts forward a fresh, globalized, brave take on Afrobeats that seems to work for the international market, with his remix with Selena charting at No.1 on the Billboard Global Excl. U.S.
“Rema tops Global Excl. U.S. in his first appearance on the chart,” wrote Billboardfollowing the artist’s debut on the chart.
“Calm Down” also landed an incredible No.5 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Sometimes when people are saying you’re doing the wrong thing — which is not the usual thing — it means that you’re going the right way,” Rema comments in an interview with The Faderregarding the reception of his debut single “Iron Man”.
The single didn’t initially convince the entirety of his team, with its flowing vocals and non-traditional blend of melodies, but the star remained confident and true to his style.
That proved to be the right call.
Thanks to his unique take and mesmerizing voice, the music act has been recognized as one of the top artists in MENA – and his efforts have also been crowned with a Guinness World Records title.
“Give me a beat, give me a sound, I can do anything — and so can my youths in Nigeria,” he says to Pitchfork.
Born in 2000, Rema grew up in Benin City, Nigeria.
Although he recalls his childhood as an overall happy time, the singer was soon forced to face the hardships of life.
After losing his father due to asthma-related issues when he was just eight years old, Rema’s older brother also passed away in 2015. At the time, his mother worked as a trader of wholesale goods and Rema found a job to help her.
However, he continued to nurture his love for music and kept on attending the local church, where he’d started a rap band with some of his fellow churchgoers. His community separated the services for adults and teenagers, and that allowed Rema to find like-minded spirits with his same passion for music.
That was Rema’s very first splash in the world of music – and, specifically, in the world of Afrobeats.
“Everyone just listens to Afrobeats here,” Rema told Pitchfork in a 2019 interview. “It’s where I learned that if I want to impress someone I have to do what they like plus what I like.”
After posting a viral freestyle video to D’Prince’s track “Gucci Gang,” in 2018 Rema was noticed and flown to Lagos to begin his official career.
He then signed under record label powerhouse Mavin and, in 2019, the rapper went on to debut with his very first EP Rema, which was shortly followed by the video release of his major success “Dumebi”.
In March 2022, he released his first album, Rave & Roses, as a Mavin signee.
Celebrating the launch of the chart, IFPI’s CEO Frances Moore said: “I’d like to congratulate Rema on becoming the first ever MENA #1. ‘Calm Down’ is a song which has clearly captured the imagination of fans across the region.”