Rome Fortune Wants To Change The Definition Of Mainstream Rap
It almost seems like every six months there's a new, wildly different movement pouring out of the Atlanta hip-hop scene, whether it be the trap stylings of Migos, the wild child freeness of Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug or the alt-hip-hop/R&B/indie rap led by the Makonnen's and Father's of the world. Enter into that latter equation Rome Fortune, who even by the loose and varied standards of the latest wave of ATLiens has proved to be cut from a different cloth. While on the whole Makonnen ("Tuesday"), Father ("Look At Wrist") and OG Maco ("U Guessed It") rode into town off the basis of one big hit and let their catalogs spread from there, Rome has had a career so far based on the quality of his projects as a whole (not to mention his always eye-grabbing cover art) such as Beautiful Pimp, Beautiful Pimp 2 and his latest, Small VVorld.
Through it all, the man with the multi-colored beard has remained hard to define, even track to track. But that's part of the appeal, and part of what is helping he and his cohorts redefine the borders of what rap music is and can actually be. For Small VVorld, Rome Fortune mined a more electronic feel, leaning heavily on producers such as Blood Diamonds, but it comes off with a personal twist that helps fans connect. Ahead of the release of his collaborative EP with Maco, titled Yep, out tomorrow, XXL spoke to Rome Fortune about his growth since his debut mixtape, his status as a connector in the Atlanta hip-hop scene and why it's so important to just be different. —Dan Rys
XXL: What kind of response did you get off this last project Small VVorld?
Rome Fortune: It's really been good. A bunch of different people and entities have been reaching out and it's really been putting a bunch of eyes on me. It's still our focal point, the project, but we're still pushing out content, you know what I mean? Just to bring people back to, Hey, it's a full project out you need to listen to. So we're using all the content we're releasing on a very constant basis to bring attention back to the project.
How do you think things have involved for you since Beautiful Pimp, your first project?
Personally; I've just learned to really be more personal on tracks, whether it's funny or whether it's dark, just always be a person. I've been seeing—we were talking about when we were on tour—people coming up after the shows talking about the personal songs, and I see that's something that a lot of people who are involved in rap don't really incorporate into music. There's too much of a cool factor.
When you can actually relate to somebody it means more than when an artist raps about their chains or their cars; so many people can't relate to that.
Right, exactly. And I don't want to do the same type of music twice, just always experiment. So as time has been progressing and my fan base has been getting gradually larger, just having that confidence to do what I want to do and just corner my own, you know?
How do you choose what to do next? If everything's in play, how do you figure that out?
I just go with my gut, man, honestly. Whatever is the tightest shit to me in that moment, that's what I'm rockin' with. You gotta go off of instinct.
Is there anyone you look to who kind of paved the way for you? There used to be defined lanes, and now everybody's got their own lane a little bit.
Well it's kind of just been me looking at everybody, whether it be from Rick James from back in the day or Young Thug today. It's kinda like, seeing so many people just doing their own thing just encourages you to stay as far away as possible—in a more respectful way—from what they're doing.
You've said in the past that, through your projects, you've built a way for yourself out of trap music.
For sure, yeah, but I'm doing some stuff where I'm fusing it again. Me and TM88 got some dope shit, and 808 Mafia. It's still cool, it still has its place, but just like with everything there has to be a different approach taken to keep it interesting. I don't wanna hear the same hook that I just heard 20 times, you know what I'm saying?
Is there a grand vision for the type of music you want to make, or have you not thought that far ahead yet?
It's kind of like, I want to be the walking example of do what you wanna do. So what we were talking about before, the terms "rap" and "trap" won't have any weight. If you want to do music, do music, if you know how to rap, incorporate that, whatever. I know there's dope rappers who know how to do different shit, but they won't do it because they're not comfortable enough to do it. So at the end of the day I just want to be that person to kickstart a bunch of people doing their own shit in a big way. Change the, I guess, definition of what mainstream is and all of that.
I feel like in order to do that you have to not second-guess yourself in a way, or just go for it even if you are second-guessing yourself. Do you ever stop and ask yourself, "Should I do this?"
Nah. Because like, this music is my whole life. So if there's people listening to my music, they don't need to know this part of me. That's why Kanye will always be relevant, because everybody knows who the fuck Kanye is because he tells you in every song.
You've said in the past, too, that you're a "connector" in Atlanta. What does that mean?
Just literally connecting people, from video dudes to Young Thug, to artists to artists, from A&Rs to this person. I'm literally in all of the worlds in Atlanta, and I've been a point man to connect and shit a lot. So that's been my role heavily for a little while. I guess just really, when I started messing with the hood crowd heavy in Atlanta, I wasn't trying to be extra, I was just myself. Weirdo, crazy, whatever you wanna call it, I was myself in every world that I stepped in so they just took it how it was, you know what I mean? It was always like a respect thing.
You've been working a lot with producer Blood Diamonds as well. How did that start?
His manager, summer 2013 hit me up to do this Yeah Yeah Yeahs remix. I worked on that, then came out to L.A. and just locked in with him and the chemistry was crazy. It was kind of since there, work work work work.
Are you usually working in the studio with a producer?
It goes both ways. A lot of times before I was all hands-on with everything, every beat, everything. But just because we were on the road a lot and all that, it's kinda like half and half [now]. But with Blood Diamonds, he's one of the producers where, he'll send me a track here and there, but everything's from the ground up, raw energy, what are we gonna create.
Do you see anywhere where you fit in on the musical landscape? Does that even matter to you?
I don't really care. It don't really matter to me. As long as I'm relevant; that's my genre, relevance. Man, it's just so much stuff [I'm working on]. I can't even name it all.
Outside of music, do you want to accomplish anything?
I want to act. Act, yeah. You gotta have that confidence. I definitely wanna do that, see my mug on my screen. But they gotta have it in my contract that I don't have to change my beard color unless I want to. [Laughs] Just come on set halfway through the shoot, different color beard.
How do you decide what color to go with?
Shit, I don't know. [Laughs] Last time I just asked on Twitter. [Now] it's like a green-ish, marroon-ish colossal force right here.