“Strictly” is also a platform for Remora to lay waste to his favorite targets: SoundCloud rappers (“Why is it so many people’s vibes is see through”), hip-hop traditionalists (“All I do is win like DJ Khaled on Snapchat/ I'm next level/ Y'all tryna’ bring real rap back”) and flashy hip-hop pretenders (“Why you niggas gotta live a fable”). At turns cynical, hilarious and heartfelt, “Strictly” is defined by Remora's skill for vivid, highly memorable lines. It’s full of clever insults like “I'm Destiny’s Child/ Y'all 3LW/ But you took three Ls and not one W" and artful brags such as “Pharrell [pronounced fo-real] you nerds be frontin’ man/ Need to fly to Neptune to be where I am.”
The track’s instrumentals — picked by Remora and mixed by Dallas-based producer Bakardi Dark — are sourced from popular hip-hop beats, including Tyler, The Creator’s “DEATHCAMP,” Dr Dre’s “Tha Shiznit,” DJ Quik’s “Addictive” and J White Did It’s “Bodak Yellow.” This varied stream of styles, sounds and moods affords Remora the chance to showcase his greatest talents: his remarkable feel for tempo; his lean, light-footed flow; and the uncanny way he can dovetail melancholy with optimism and seemingly reconcile the two.
Following the release of “Strictly,” which feels like Remora's long-awaited coming-out party, we caught up with him to talk success, Fiona Apple and his evolution as a rapper.
When did you move to Dallas? And why?
When I graduated high school in Rialto, California, I just said forget school, I’m going to be a rapper. One thing led to another, and I found himself living a wild life out there — too many parties, too much drinking, too many fake people. I needed a change, so I came to Dallas, where my mom lives, and left all the other stuff — that other life — behind.
How and why did you start rapping in the first place?
My dad had all these instrumental tapes he kept in the closet. One day, I was going through his CDs, and the first beat I found — the first beat I ever heard — was Jay Z and Beyonce’s “Bonnie & Clyde.” I was just so fascinated by the idea of rapping. So ever since then, since I was 11, I’ve always been writing raps. I’ve written a rap every day of my life since I was 15.
Twenty-six minutes of bars. That’s a rare thing. What made you want to attempt something like this?
Honestly, I wanted a challenge. I thought: “What’s something that would be hard for me to do, but also interesting to see if it can actually be done, and done well?” This is what I came up with.
You mentioned fake people and wanting to escape the circle you fell into before moving to Dallas. Throughout “Strictly,” you denounce that fakeness, emphasize the importance of authenticity, and highlight the friends and family that have really mattered to you. Tell us what inspired the lyrics for this release.
Everybody who was mentioned as a loved one has really stuck by me and been with me through some pivotal moments. Without these people, there’s no Myloh. They're the reason I keep going. I felt they deserved recognition. That’s another reason the song just kept getting longer — I didn’t want to forget anyone. But I couldn’t mention everybody, like all my cousins and aunts. There just wasn’t enough time.
You also call out a lot of people: SoundCloud rappers, old rap heads, the fake J Coles, the Soulja Boy copycats. Can you elaborate on that?
"I feel like there's a lack of diversity [in rap]. It's like, here's another 'lil whoever' doing the same type of shit as everyone else. ... I like to turn up in the club, too. But there's higher, more substantial things to say also." – Myloh Remora
It’s not everybody. I like Lil Uzi. I’m not going to say specifically who I don’t like. But yeah, I’m sick of rappers that just emulate that they’re deep. It’s never about the music; it’s always about them. For me, rap is about lyricism. And that seems to have diminished with time.
What do you think of the rap game in 2017?
There’s a lack of creativity in the main wave. It’s OK if you can’t rap technically well, but give me something different. In the current game, this guy sounds like this guy who sounds like this guy. I feel like there’s a lack of diversity. It’s like, here’s another "lil whoever" doing the same type of shit as everyone else. I think if these guys put in a little more effort, whether the lyrics are still slow and droopy or not, they could really say something. I like to turn up in the club, too. But there’s higher, more substantial things to say also.
What’s your take on the Dallas rap scene?
With all due respect, I love the Dallas scene, but I want to make my own imprint, change things. I don’t want to Kanye you, but that’s just what it is. I see everyone else and I love what they’re doing, but I’m coming for the badge and they’re gonna have to stop me.
For some, it’s stacks; to others, it’s being the best rapper or producer in the game. What is success to you as a rapper?
My dream is to get a Grammy Award, to be a global artist with a large reach. But my heart — my No. 1 purpose — is to heal self-esteem. I feel like if you gave me the same platform that other, bigger rappers have, I could do it — I could heal self-esteems. If I ever get to that point, I think I could be very impactful.
What artists inspire you?
Rap is only part of it. There’s Kendrick, J Cole, Chance the Rapper, Drake. But it was Eminem that first made me want to be a lyricist — Jay Z, Andre 3000, and The Beatles, too. I’ll tell you who I think is the best music writer I’ve ever heard: Fiona Apple. I like Lady Gaga, too. You’re more likely to catch me listening to Taylor Swift than 95 percent of the rappers people are championing right now. It’s not that I want to go back to the '90s, either. I’m so done with everyone going back to the '90s — it’s over. Let’s create something new. If you show me a song where you’re rhyming like Mos Def or Common over a '90s boom bap instrumental track, I’m hard-pressed to even hear you anymore.
How was the music chosen for “Strictly 4 My Loved Ones”? How did you come to rap on these beats?
It started with me wanting to do a trippy rap song with some really interesting beats. I rapped a few hundred bars but got bored with the track and scrapped it. This happened a few times, and then finally I decided, "Fuck it, I’m not going to sell this anyway, so I’m just going with a bunch of bangin’ beats I’ve never rapped on before."
I’ve got more projects in the works, a “Strictly 4 My Loved Ones” music video and a lot of shows planned for the near future. It’s going to be a big year.