When I first heard REI it was when I had just started doing work with muzic.net.nz. I reviewed his Rangatira EP. I was drawn to his music and also his use of the Reo. Being Māori myself I appreciated that someone was using their knowledge and heritage and incorporating that into their passion, which his is music. In saying that there are other artists in Aotearoa that do that but everyone has a different style. Now I promise that even though I am a fan of his music, I will be completely honest as always.
The Bridge is REI’s third album and it seems to be his most intimate yet as he shares his emotions and realisations from his experience of the highs and lows in a relationship. But it is also a 14-track, self-empowered reminder to be the “chief”/leader of your own life.
I’m going to kick this off by discussing the strong album artwork. A profile portrait of REI himself with his beautiful tattoo of a huia feather on his neck. Huia feathers were worn by Maori to show their mana and was generally worn by people of higher ranking such as chiefs. When REI posted a photo of the tattoo he said “Be the chief of your own purpose, mind & environment” but the huia feather has also been the symbol for him and his music for quite some time. The image is a simple yet powerful image and a good representation of the album. It is him.
Now lets do a track by track breakdown:
- Present – This track makes a great intro track to the album. It is him reflecting on his journey and himself. The beat is simple and works well with his smooth vocals. It is almost like a reminder he has given himself “I gotta stay present”.
- Good Mood – Now you should know this track by now if you follow REI or listen to the radio. If you don’t, go watch the video. And I can guarantee it will actually put you in a good mood whether you just listen to the track or watch the video as well. It’s just a fun & positive track and if it doesn’t get you dancing a bit then you must be listening to it wrong. As I write this I am bopping along. I can’t help it. It is definitely one that will go off live and should definitely be added to all summer road trip playlists.
- Can’t Stop Won’t Stop – Good Mood brought out the more upbeat, fun, pop side of REI. This track is showing you the rapper side. It is very much a reflection of his motivation but also how you should feel this way and be the “chief” in your own life. It’s a good track to bop along too. I also feel like it really shows you his rap style, how he touches on Maori culture/history and his confidence in himself & his work.
- Too Easy Ft. Lion Rezz – As mentioned in this title, upcoming reggae artist Lion Rezz features on this track. REI takes on the smooth vocals and rap verses with Lion Rezz providing a verse to help break the track up a bit. But his verse also provides somewhat of a hit/breakdown in the track. Lion Rezz’s verse also suit the pop/reggae vibe of the track. Too Easy is a smooth track about loving someone and the different elements of that.
- Fine Wine Ft. bKIDD – Like Too Easy, Fine Wine has a feature, bKIDD. It also touches on love but more of a look at her from his point of view. Local rapper bKIDD has been busy himself, releasing his EP ‘The Milkman’ last month. This track is quite the mix with REI in the way he has a range of his vocal styles. But because of that bKIDD’s verse fits into the track really well.
- Gentle – I feel as though this is where you start to realise that though REI plays with a lot of different elements in his music, he definitely has a style. His tracks are quite smooth and the differences allow you to bop along or just chill. This track almost seems like he is preparing himself for the worst in his relationship and comparing the good and bad. But the upbeat track almost detracts from that a bit which is probably nice in the way that everyone doesn’t feel all sad after the previous tracks. Not that there’s anything wrong with having some slower tracks either.
- Younger – This track in regards to lyrics is almost confusing in the way that it’s like he is indecisive about what he wants from her. But also talking about how it’s a reflection on society as well. I like the small live/crowd vocals slipped in towards the end of the track. That was very unexpected. It is a nice smooth track to vibe along too.
- Flight Mode – This song touches on how he needs to cut himself off from what is going on with the outside world whether it’s to work on his music or just block out negativity. This clearly can have a couple of bad results but no intentionally. Another smooth and simple track to vibe too.
- No Way Ft. Tyna – Now REI is picking the tempo back up with a fast-paced guitar and beat. Tyna brings the track in nicely with his smooth deep vocals which fit in nicely throughout the whole track. That high note and harmonies at the end are so good. REI jumps in, bringing his rapping back into it. It’s seems to be another reflection of his journey.
- Instinct – This track is a strong rap track for him. I feel like this track is a contrast to the album in a way that these smooth tracks with a beat suddenly become a bass-heavy & deep track with some pretty solid bars. I can see why this was released as a single and it definitely deserved to be. Check out the video. Instinct is definitely one of my favourites.
- Work It Out Ft. Amber Maya – REI seems to touch on the problematic parts of a relationship and working things out. Amber’s incredible soulful vocals work really well in this track. I like the idea of having a female’s vocals and I think that’s due to the nature of the song, like their almost singing to each other. This track also has REI hitting some higher notes himself as he harmonizes with Amber.
- Like Myself – Now REI has gone full acoustic. This song almost brings the album full circle in a way that, though he touches on love and his relationship throughout the album, he is also reflecting on himself and what he needs. He touched on a few of these things first in Present. And I guess as the saying goes “How can you love someone when you don’t really love yourself?”. I love the fact that this is just an acoustic track. This album really is quite the mix.
- Work In Progress Ft. El Waves – REI really is reflecting on his relationship and himself in these last few tracks of this album. I felt like the beat in the previous tracks almost masked the subject of the lyrics a bit but this one really brings the feelings through. El Waves beautiful vocals compliment his raps so well and really reflect the feeling of the track. This is definitely another favourite for me I’d say.
- Tumeke – The final track of the album and he clearly didn’t want you finishing his album on an emotional reflection. Instead it is an upbeat track about just staying positive which is quite nice. I mean as we know it’s easier said than done but it is the best way isn’t it, just keep going.
This album is definitely a good album by an artist who I really thinks deserves to be more well known. Though this album can feel quite similar throughout in some ways, I feel that there is something for everyone and it does have a very New Zealand sound. Check out some photos from the album listening party below. Out on Spotify now!
Congrats on the new album REI!