Christian Schultz

Last year Rome Fortune released his debut, eponymous studio album, Jerome Raheem Fortune, through Fool’s Gold Records. It was a monumental step for the artist, who, despite record deal offers, has been independent since releasing his first project in 2012. Even though he’s been a staunch proponent of the indie model, Fortune’s body of self-released EPs and mixtapes have earned him a fiercely loyal, organically-cultivated fanbase.

Now, after a year full of travel and enriching new experiences, Fortune is preparing to add another volume to his Beautiful Pimp mixtape series. This time he plans to address hip-hop’s culture of conformity with a project that pushes the sonic limits of his experimental output. The EP’s lead single, “WOOPS,” which we’re exclusively premieringis a good indicator of what’s to come. Featuring lush production from Cubby, Fortune’s longtime collaborator, and inspired by world music, the single intentionally stands in stark opposition to the trap-inflected brand of hip-hop leading the current market.

To accompany the forthcoming release, Fortune also produced WE ALL DIE, a cinematic miniature documentary that chronicles the struggles and triumphs of being an independent creative. The short, which was directed by Fortune’s friend, Jared Hogan, also features pieces from the clothing line he created with his business partner Cyd Garcia. While the film arguably serves as a primer to Beautiful Pimp 3, it’s also simply another medium for Fortune to express his boundless creativity.

Watch the documentary below and read our Q&A with Fortune below.

WE ALL DIE is a first-person look at the reality of being an independent creative. Why did incorporating themes of mortality make sense to express this?

My personal perception of current creatives is that everyone is looking at the most popular or trending figures in their field for inspiration. The main thing we tried to communicate is that we literally all have the same entrance and exit to this world. What purpose is your energy serving if the only thing you’re doing with it is attempting to duplicate someone else?

What was the inspiration behind the mini documentary and what did you want to convey to viewers?

Visually, one of the main goals was to have the message be cohesive throughout. Your comfort level with expressing your point of view to the world should always be at its highest. Everyone sees the world differently and when someone is able to express that transparently without concern about acceptance the biggest evolutions occur. Subconsciously I’ve made this a theme throughout my career but I’ve reached a point where I have to be direct in the message of saying there are too many of the exact same artists dominating. That’s the theme of Beautiful Pimp 3 (BP3). It’s about following what you feel not what you think people want you to feel. I put a lot of trust into my director (Jared Hogan) to help communicate this. We’ll be pushing the boundaries of what’s deemed acceptable pretty hard this year.

Christian Schultz

You wore pieces from your own clothing line in the documentary. Tell us a bit more about how your style ties into the larger project.

My business partner and designer, Cyd Garcia, and I wanted to make items that only people completely comfortable with themselves would enjoy. We’d conceptually create outrageous dream mashups and just see if they worked out materially. For example, we would say something like, “if Austin Powers were to go to kick it with DMX and Ruff Ryders at their peak, what would he wear to their hood and feel comfortable but still be respected?” Shit like that.

What was the inspiration behind “WOOPS”?

‘WOOPS’ is me saying I already know what your song sounds like before I click play. I already know the subject matter and I’m tired of it. Why aren’t you? How many songs about fucking somebody’s bitch or how much money you have can you make over a knockoff Metro Boomin’ beat? Right now so many other genres follow the wave because hip-hop is the most popular thing on earth. So this is me introducing you to world music. Cubby, who produced the song, is one of the best out right now, period. He feels the same as I about the current state of everything. World music is definitely needed.

How do you think your willingness to experiment has helped you as an artist?

I’m personally in this because I love music. I could have taken so many deals that would have put me in a better place monetarily but would have limited my growth. My capacity to become the best human being I can has no price tag on it. Music gives me a fulfillment and a constant challenge that nothing else has been able to teach me. If I’m capable of speaking to so many people from multiple backgrounds no matter the race or orientation, why would I limit myself sonically? My fanbase isn’t the largest but the ones I have are impacted by my music. That impact will grow because the world needs a change.

Christian Schultz

You’ve alluded to the fact that you feel sonically ahead of the curve. Where do you look for new inspiration?

Sonically I’ve been inspiring the top players in the industry for a while. They’ve tried to sign me, couldn’t afford me then stole from what I was doing. Fortunately, my inspiration is everything I see. Literally. So the abundance of my creative energy is rich. I provoke myself to always look at things differently or question what most won’t.

On a large scale, I do expect to be misunderstood in a sense. Most times people are afraid to say what they truly enjoy out loud. Without a huge cosign or viral hit, it can be hard for person constantly surrounded and pressured by average minds to take the first leap. I’m so many people’s best kept secret, which is fine to me. I’m not a struggling artist. My relevance isn’t dependent on a meme culture or cartooning myself. The artists whom I appreciate most,current and past, just made great shit until the world caught on.

In your documentary you refer to hip-hop as a dick measuring contest. Do you think the genre focuses too much on pageantry rather than music?

Absolutely, it’s the focal point of the whole culture. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating yourself but we’re also often given the misconception that greatness has a price tag. This industry is a mind fuck. The ones with the actual control don’t give a damn about you wasting your money on trivial shit. Unfortunately it’s just business and people are sheep. When you give the biggest platforms to those who won’t empower the unknowingly powerful, a terrible cycle ensues. When shit really, really hits the fan though, are your diamonds going to save you?

Christian Schultz

What can we expect from Beautiful Pimp 3?

Simply nothing you’ve heard before. Which people should be accustomed to from me by now.

How will Beautiful Pimp 3 be different than 1 and 2?

The main thing is that my awareness level is much higher. Production-wise, lyrically, and even just my approach is different. Beautiful Pimp 1 was me subconsciously documenting my environment. Beautiful Pimp 2 and my first album, Jerome Raheem Fortune, was the awakening of my self-awareness. This time around there’s a new awareness of my environment – which has broadened vastly from my world travels.

Also listen to Rome’s musical contribution to Jordan Peele’s racially charged horror-comedy ‘Get Out’ here.

  • Videographer:Jared Hogan
  • Photographer:Christian Schultz
Words by Stephanie Smith-Strickland
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