Aged 18, he grew up on the outskirts of London in Haslemere, Surrey. Today his hometown acts as a retreat for when life in the capital gets too overwhelming. But while growing up, he wasn’t exactly surrounded by cultural hotspots. “Thank god for the Internet,” he sums up. As he grew older, music gradually took over his life.
Rex’s ‘bcos u will never b free’ captures a very specific time, songs penned when he “just needed to leave school” and “needed to get away from people and situations I was bored of.” ‘Apricot Princess’ takes a different path. It became a blueprint for Rex’s sound, where jazz-nodding keys, sugar-soaked vocals and no-fucks-given lyricism share the same space in a dazzling combination. Honing in on “general positivity”, it focuses on how he met his girlfriend, discovered London and broke free from boredom. New single ‘UNO’ sticks to the no-bullshit mantra of his early songs (“I live with a voice that tends to tell me that I’m shit in my head,” he raps), adding jolts of sax, disjointed chords and pitch-shifting vocal for good measure.
Through uploading ‘bcos u will never b free’ came connections to producers like Two Inch Punch and BadBadNotGood who got in touch after stumbling across Rex’s Bandcamp page. And none so perfect a collaborator came to the table than Tyler, the Creator who sent “the most illiterate email” to help reach out. “I couldn’t tell if it was definitely him. Was someone fucking with me? I was just not convinced.” After giving all his work to the internet it seemed to be returning the favour.
Pendulum-swinging between loved-up verses and rap refrains, Rex’s music refuses to be pigeonholed. “You don’t have to be perfectionist about stuff,” he claims. “Nothing has to be perfect. Why take it so seriously when anyone in the fucking world can make music? Make it obvious you did it.” If there’s one thing that defines his early material, it’s a personal stamp O’Connor applies at every opportunity. This is his personality epitomised, spilled out in multicolour.