Rome Fortune on Staying Focused: "Too Easy to Get Distracted at This Point In My Career"

The rap game has never been more competitive than it is today. Fueled by a flood of millennials and teens nostalgic for the OG beats that made-up their childhood soundtracks, rappers have never had to work harder to please evermore discerning audiences. A byproduct of all the competition is the indie rap scene. Once nonexistent, the countercultural strain of rhymes has now taken over much of urban culture. Rapper Rome Fortune is one of those artists looking to standout from the pack.

The twenty-six-year-old Fortune has been plugging away at the game since 2011, when his first EP The Air Mattress dropped. Since then Pitchfork named him one of the most overlooked artists in the game. Recently he's collaborated with talent like Toro y Moi, Cakes Da Killa, and Doss. Before his set at this Sunday's Fool's Gold Day Off, he sat down with New Times, for a one-on-one interview that unpacks exactly what makes him one of the next big up-and-comers on the scene. 

How did you first become interested in music? Did it run in your family?
I’ve always had music around me growing up. My grandmother literally never turned her stereo off in the house so it was like every moment of the day was soundtracked somehow. My uncles and mom were the same way. Subconsciously that just became a part of how I functioned day-to-day. On top of that my grandfather and relatives on my mom’s side of the family were big jazz musicians.

Who were your biggest musical influences, apart from rappers?
Actually, rap isn’t my go-to genre of music, and the majority of music I had influence me growing up was a lot of varied R&B, and soul. Rick James, The Isley Brothers, Marvin Gaye type of stuff honestly. The biggest influence may have been Erykah Badu. She fused so many worlds seamlessly and just told her story. She was authentic and meant every word. That left a big impression on me that has never left me in my creative process.

Growing up what were some of the rap albums that you most connected to?
A Tribe Called Quest’s early albums, Busta Rhymes early albums, Camp Lo, Old Cash Money, and No Limit. Of course Outkast. 

Pitchfork named Beautiful Pimp, one of the most overlooked mixtapes of 2013. Why do you think it didn't get the attention it deserved?
Simply put, I feel like it was just a bit too ahead of it’s time. I feel like I pushed the envelope on the soundscape of the state of trap music at the time. You hear a bunch of remakes of what I did there on that project. The producers on there tell me that big artists would reach out to them and use Beautiful Pimp as reference point when working. It’s just the risk you take being an emerging act with ambitious vision. 

What's a typical day for you out on the road?
Work. I don’t really do the partying scene too much. I do my show or press run then I head back to my hotel to be productive. I’m either making beats, working on the creative direction to upcoming projects or videos, recording features, game planning with my manager, et cetera. Sometimes I find a cool chick to kick it with because female energy is awesome, and inspiring. I’m a worker though. Too easy to get distracted at this point in my career. 

Your style blends a lot of different musical elements together, trap, electronic music, etc. How would you describe your sound?
My sound is music. As time progresses I think the classification lines of genre becomes more blurred by the day. So many people listen to so many types of music. I just make sounds for people who love music. Whether it be intricate production, inventive rhyme schemes or just an honest story you’re looking for.  

What can someone expect from your Fool's Gold set this weekend?
Raw energy. Lots of interaction with the crowd. A ton of dancing and surprises throughout. 

Have you played Miami before? What are some of your impressions of the city?
This is actually my first time in Miami period. I’m excited. 

Fool's Gold Day Off with Flosstradamus, A-Trak, Vic Mensa, Bosco, Laidback Luke, and others. 2 p.m. Sunday, September 13, at Mana Wynwood Production Village, 318 NW 23rd St., Miami; 305-573-0371; Tickets cost $30 to $45 plus fees via All ages.