Rome Fortune is Effortlessly Boundary Breaking with new Album, FREEk
Evan Dale // Jan 26, 2019
For an artist whose presence was high-key prolific during the early 2010’s, beautiful pimp, hip-hop chemist, and one of the most understated forces of influence on the modern scene, Rome Fortune has been relatively quiet since 2018 when he released a collaborative EP with Toro y Moi, Toro y Rome. In fact, his last solo album was 2016’s Jerome Raheem Fortune. But, the man’s a FREEk – not just in terms of his prolificity which regained steam with a few single releases in 2019. Sonically, aesthetically, thematically, experimentally, and outright sexually, his new album explores his uncanny knack at doing everything from a unique angle; doing everything with artistic fervor.
Atlanta by way of Philadelphia, Fortune’s sound isn’t really owed to anything about either locale with the broad stroke exceptions of hip-hop culture and risk-taking creativity at large. Instead, he’s one of the most noteworthy examples of an independent artist of the internet era utilizing his all-encompassing skillset to create a sound like no one before. True to Fortune’s roots, FREEk is nothing if not one of the most vibrant and boundary slashing explorations of experimentally driven hip-hop in years.
Foremost, itthrives as a thesis on texture. FREEk’s juxtaposition between layers of atmospheric production and Rome Fortune’s impossible deep, silky register putting forth a hyper-sensual pen makes for a finished product that is equal parts planetary ambience, flow-centric rap, and sexually freeing poetry. The sort of high-fidelity, electronic production that has always driven his sound and made him a monumental force of hip-hop futurism cleaves with the calming, meditative delivery of his ever-clever lyricism. He’s mellow, collected, yet unpredictable and outright hilarious at times. His flow shifts with ease, making each verse on each of FREEk’s tracks an entirely new sensation altogether.
Case and point: Bananas.
The album’s opening track, Bananas does exactly what it intends to do when it comes to laying the framework for the ensuing study on hip-hop trialing's merged lane with sex. Raw and uncut, Bananas – in the way that Gwen Stefani intended the adjective –is Fortune’s descriptor for his partners fellatio game. And even the absurdity of the track’s subject matter in full scope, it’s less funny and outrageous; it reads more as a silky set of lines from a rapper eternally confident in his abilities musical, sexual, and everywhere in between.
Braggadocious but not outlandish.
Beyond the mire of Bananas’ words exists its deeper genius. From the spoon-fed delivery in Fortune’s first verse and the impossibly anthemic melody driving his hook, he changes up his cadence – a signature move – for the next. Seemingly effortless, he drops cunningly creative line after line at a tempo predicating of the next track, 4 Girls, and its hook:
‘Flow dumb and I know so…’
But the effortlessness is unrepeatable. No one else in hip-hop has sounded like Rome Fortune, and that’s because no one else has ever been able to. Even if others had the supernatural skillset he carries, they wouldn’t be able to utilize it all and emerge with something so creative, and seemingly so easy.
Ease comes naturally to him, and it bleeds through into his music. That’s always been one of his two strongest lures.
It’s also the genius of the contrasting elements that has made Rome Fortune a weapon moving forward the wheels of hip-hop and its post-genre union with everything from spoken word to house to Neo-Soul. FREEk at a macro scale and each track taken piecemeal are studies of juxtaposition and the way that every corner of Rome Fortune’s elemental makeup – a hypnotizingly smooth vocal delivery; an ability to shift his flow at the drop of a hat; wily lyricism; electronically-rooted production that has paved the way for so much of the modern scene to do the same – is able to merge and disconnect at varying degrees to make a daringly effortless exhibition come to life.
Each verse changes the direction of each track. Every track is a multi-part composition differing from the last. Yet, FREEk in its entirety comes together sans effort as a cohesive conglomerate stronger than any of its individual blocks.
There are hip-hop albums that tell a story. There are those that juxtapose club bangers with anthemically lyrical ballads. There are masterpieces that succeed in both without disjointedness. But, Rome Fortune’s masterful ability to instill fractional verses and hooks with their own identities yet connect them not only through a track but through the totality of a half-hour project, is a reinvention of structure.
There are hip-hop artists that focus on the foundational pillars of flow and lyricism. There are those that experiment with melody and entirely unheard sounds in production. There are masterminds that own creative breadths expansive enough to merge both lanes. Yet, FREEk’s aptitude in painting each of its tracks with myriad stylistic brushes, makes it a reinvention of texture.
The thing about an artist like Rome Fortune is that it’s borderline unfair to even call him a rapper. You can, but then you have to also call him a vocalist, a producer, and a composer. Like so many great albums by such artistically capable musicians before, Rome Fortune’s FREEk is a collection of tracks able to stand on their own that when pulled together and in order, tell an even greater story of promiscuity, freedom, and musical genius.
Whether someone is a fan of hip-hop or sex; soul or electronically minimalist production, they’ll find not something, but everything intriguing about Rome Fortune’s FREEk – a taste of what rap and sex will sound like in a more perfect future.