Being Rome Fortune

Atlanta Rapper bares his soul on Fool’s Gold debut

It’s a strange time in life for Jerome Raheem Fortune. On the eve of releasing his self-titled debut album, the Atlanta-based rapper has found a comfortable middle ground between self-actualized artist, devoted father of two, and hungover rock star-in-the-making. “It’s crazy because when I’m at home, I’m totally Mr. Family Guy,” Fortune says. “And it’s so weird being, like, Daddy Day Care then the next moment I’m like, ‘Let’s rage!’ It’s awesome, though. My kids keep me grounded so I don’t stray too far. I’m still young, I can have my fun, but I gotta be here for my dudes. So yeah, it’s a balance.”

The balance is something Fortune has consciously channeled into his life and music over the last year, which has included releasing critically acclaimed music, a national tour, and a brief stint in the Cobb County jail. He bares it all on the new album Jerome Raheem Fortune (out Feb. 26 via Fool’s Gold), and he chose that name for that very reason. “I was on a couple of tours and people were asking questions that I thought were obvious, and I realized: I haven’t given much insight into my life throughout all of the music I’ve been making. So I wanted to make an album that told people who I was and explained why I am the way I am,” he says. “There are a lot of layers to the way that I conduct myself and the reason why I care about my fans and talk to them the way I do. My kids, going to jail, and all that stuff? I felt like that was stuff that needed to be covered. The real me.”

Jerome Raheem Fortune delivers on that promise. From the young man seeking solace in music and a young lady on “Dance” to the confessions of a first-time father on “Love,” Fortune offers a valiant first attempt at full artistic disclosure. His previous projects were simply a young creative mind’s take on what hip-hop should sound like. They set Rome apart from many of his contemporaries, but they weren’t exactly breaking new ground in the personal depth department.

A Philadelphia transplant, Fortune emerged on the music scene in 2011 with the first crop of artists to define a “New Atlanta” sound. He has collaborated and shared stages with most of the stars of that scene, even partnering with OG Maco on 2015’s YEP. In January, he released a collection of iLoveMakonnen collaborations. It could be argued that Fortune remains the most creatively daring of his peers, laying the foundation for the artist he wished to become through collaborations with Brenmar, Soulection, Toro Y Moi, and others who helped broaden his artistic reach. The wider fan base and musical inspiration is immediately noticeable on Jerome Raheem Fortune, where the production plays as big a role as Fortune’s vocals. It’s also a testament to his newly minted partnership with Fool’s Gold Records, the boutique label whose hip-hop roster skews toward the experimental and the avant-garde.

Rome joined the label with a completed LP in hand, but scrapped it in favor of this new direction, which he calls a “level-up” for both musical and lyrical content. “There’s been an oversaturation of surface-level music,” Fortune says. “I feel like people are like, ‘OK I like this in the club, but we want something to drive to work to when we wanna quit our jobs or whatever.’ So I feel like momentum is shifting toward a more conscious level of hip-hop. Not like super backpack, but people are becoming more aware, so the timing is perfect.”

Of course, with a body of work so raw, where Fortune presents his cocaine use, potential beef with other local artists, baby mama drama, and his own self-doubt for the world to see, he admits there is the possibility that “shit got too real.”

“But then I think it’s cool because I feel like the best and most poetic art by some of my favorite artists came from stuff that they might be embarrassed about, as far as the content matter and who they’re talking about. I know a few people are gonna be mad, but it’s really just honesty. I can’t filter it. I’m just documenting it.”