Rome Fortune battles with the sound and feel of the here-and-now on his new mixtape Beautiful Pimp II. More than anything, the new project feels like an impressive balancing act between today’s strongest musical elements. He and CitoOnTheBeat – the sole producer of the mixtape – have pulled some of hip-hop’s most contemporary strands and shaped them for Rome’s own use.
As straightforward as this process may seem, few artists are able to fully integrate themselves within the sounds that resonate in a given moment of a record and create something unique. Relentless 808s & dominant, smooth, EDM-inspired synths lace the soundscape. Vocal references to today’s rap elite occasionally surface (on his track “Secretly”, Rome mirrors the upward inflection previously implemented by Ab-Soul on “Bohemian Grove”), but it doesn’t feel like mimicry. Rather, he and Cito have closely studied these popular sounds, whether consciously or subconsciously, and re-crafted them into a structure that feels remarkably personal, allowing Rome’s lyrics to wind through the instrumentals with ease.
This personal touch is accented by the vibraphone noodling that pops up throughout the 30-minute project. This instrumentation, provided by Fortune’s grandfather, often serves as a capstone for one of the more sprawling tracks, “I Was On One, I Can’t Lie” – the clear tones bring the listener back to earth after three minutes of suspension in the airy production. This juxtaposition sometimes seems a touch unnatural, like at the end of “OneDay”, when the vibes’ melody is dissonant to the beat. But this dissonance isn’t displeasing, and actually works well to jolt the listener out of the track’s haze.
For the most part, Rome avoids falling into the pitfall of lyrical laziness that accompany other rappers’ laid-back flow by remaining sharply in the pocket, hitting rhythmic points of emphasis with force. His content is complex, but remains accessible because he manages to share complicated ideas without obscuring them behind overcomplicated rhythmic cadences. The listener has time to take in what he has to say, from “Bad For Me”’s tortured musings on a troublesome female to his declaration of future stature on the finale “So”. He maintains this balancing act between complexity and clarity, between popular sound and individual vision, a truly impressive feat from a truly promising novel voice in hip-hop.
4.5 out of 5
You can stream Beautiful Pimp II here.