“Iconic, legendary, and unforgettable bitch” is how Korean-American alt-pop/hip-hop artist REI AMI describes her music. And to be honest, she’s not wrong.
With over 125 million global streams to date, 185 million YouTube views, and 2.3 million monthly Spotify listeners from 100 countries, REI AMI is here to deliver her long-awaited debut mixtape, FOIL. The genre-bending 10-track project is proof that she marches to the beat of her own drum and is in a category of her own.
“The whole concept was not adhering to a specific sound or style,” REI AMI tells EUPHORIA. “The title FOIL is referring to when you have foil characters in any movie or story. Every single song on this project is a foil character of REI AMI, of who I am truly at the core.”
“I didn’t want to adhere to a sound. This is my first project, why should I? This whole process was so therapeutic and experimental and really about the release.”
If you’re just discovering REI AMI, be aware, FOIL has no limits and is no subtle introduction. Through a phone call, EUPHORIA. got to learn more about the mixtape, her collaborators Aminé and Lolo Zouaï, and what it was like creating during the pandemic.
How long ago did you start working on FOIL?
I would probably say the oldest song on there is three years old. I was supposed to drop a project last fall but I kind of panicked. So many changes had occurred — I moved, I fell in love, so many things, so many life-changing moments. I wasn’t ready to release a body of work that didn’t feel honest so I was like, fuck it. In the past six or seven months, I’ve been in and out of the studio and it all just happened.
There are two super cool collaborations on the project. How did they both come about?
So, “do it right” featuring Aminé that actually came about quite surprisingly. We reached out to Aminé’s team for a feature and sent him a playlist of all my unreleased songs and allowed him to pick which one appealed to him. The fact that he chose “do it right,” which is the oldest one on there and the slowest, was so surprising, but I’m so glad he hopped on it because he really did his part on that song and brought it to life and made a whole new meaning out of it and I think people really appreciated that. I love how he went for the most unpredictable pick and I think it ended up becoming so organic and raw.
With the Lolo one, “Cherry Chapstick,” I was in New York two years ago. I recorded the demo, and then I literally forgot about it. And then I hear later, I’m in San Francisco and she literally just texts me a Dropbox link with her verse laid down on that demo and I’m like, “WAIT, What??” And it’s crazy because I was in the Bay, where she’s from, and she just made the demo while I was out there and decided to send it to me. I was like, oh my god, the fact that you felt the initiative to hop on it, thank you so much. So, it was a pleasant surprise. I would say both features came about very naturally.
Do you have a personal favorite on the tape? Is there one that is most special to you?
Yeah, it’s actually track number 4 called “damn.” I think it’s one of the slower ones and it was actually the last song to be put on the project. I had a writing camp and then it came about a month after. I was really going through it that day and I just kinda sat there and I started writing. I wrote that song completely in two hours and usually when I write a song that fast, it’s really shitty or really fucking good. I think this time around, I was able to articulate what I was going through at the time in such an honest way. I really needed to get it out and I realized how important it was to me after. It’s very meaningful, that’s probably why it’s my favorite — I have an emotional attachment to that song.
Even though you had been putting out music for some time, was there any pressure going into making your first full-length project?
Oh my god, yes! There were all kinds of pressure because I had never realized a full body of work, ever. Therefore, there are so many things this entire process has taught me about releasing a project and working with a team. I’m such a perfectionist, I was overthinking to the point where I was putting TOO much pressure on myself for obviously no reason. I think last fall when I got signed and I brought my new management on board, I kind of panicked. I was like, I don’t know what I’m fucking doing, I’m scared. It’s so scary because I’ve never done this before but I’m excited to get this off my chest and into the world and then I’m onto the next thing. Boom!
Is there a main goal you would like to achieve with FOIL?
Obviously shows and festivals. I would love to go abroad and do a show for this project and all of that. There are so many things I wanna do. And with the world opening back up, I just wanna go on tour. I wanna see the world and rage with my fans and get lost in random cities.
What was it like creating music in the pandemic? Did it restrict you in any way?
Creating throughout the whole pandemic was a complete shit show if I’m being completely honest. I think everyone was going through it in their life, whether it was emotional, mental, spiritual. I think personally for me, it was all three. Obviously, it was crazy but it was necessary and very therapeutic. Life was not normal, so how do you feel like yourself when the world is also so fucking fucked up. Trying to build something on a shaky foundation is very difficult. I was in a new city, I was working with new people, a new team, and thank God I have the people that I have. If it weren’t for them, I would have been so lost and directionless.
Do you listen to other artists while in the process of making music or do you try to avoid that?
I think it’s always beneficial to refer to other artists as inspiration because, at the end of the day, we are constantly inspired and influenced by things whether we want to be inspired or not. Things are always molding and shaping us, so why not truly use them to your advantage and build something bigger, bolder, and better from it.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Jhene Aiko, she’s very peaceful. I’ve been craving very calming music. I’ve also been listening to a lot of H.E.R., Childish Gambino, who is a favorite, and Tkay Maidiza.
Do you have any dream collaborations?
Rihanna. That’s it. Yup.
I can totally see that happening!
Same, I can definitely see that happening. I’ve already planned it out, it’s OK.
I can also see you doing a collab with Charli XCX.
Oh, please! I love Charli! She’s so cool and a great example of an artist who paved her own lane. She’s one of the very few artists who could put six other artists on a song and I would listen to it all the way through. I have so much respect for her, she has her own sound, she just kills it.