Rome Streetz is swiftly gaining acclaim as one of the best lyricists in the game. His tales of hustling and witty wordplay are reminiscent of 90s era emcees from the birthplace of Hip-Hop. Streetz, a Brooklyn native, is walking in the footsteps of the street poets that came before him.
In 2018 Rome Streetz put in extra work, releasing two albums, (Street Farmacy, Streetz Keep Calling Me) and an EP (Noise Kandy). Rome kicked off 2019 with the sequel to Noise Kandy, “Noise Kandy 2: The Re-Up” The six-track EP features appearances by Agallah and Illa Ghee, and production by Vinyl Villain, The Historian, Loman, NCL-TM, Wavy Da Ghawd, and Illah Dutch.
The Real Hip-Hop spoke to Rome Streetz about his transition from the streets to the stage, his tireless work ethic, and his new EP, Noise Kandy 2: The Re-Up.
TRHH: You obviously spend a lot of time with your lyrics; what’s your writing process like?
Rome Streetz: That’s a good question. I write what I feel. I write what comes to mind. I don’t really have one way of doing it. Sometimes I can make up shit in my head and write it down so I don’t forget it. I don’t really have a process. I write all my shit in my phone. One thing I do like to do is be out. I write some of my best shit outside. I could be in a car or wherever it hits me. A lot of it is outside in the streets. I used to love to write my rhymes on the train because I had the most inspiration there. It comes from life. I can write my rhymes in the crib, too, but some of the illest shit I ever made was made outside doing stuff. It could be to no beat.
Some of the songs I write to no beat and I just find the beat to go with it. Some songs I write to the beat. It’s really whatever comes to mind. The majority of the time it’s not, “Yo, I’m going to make a song about this.” I just come up with the first thing I want to say and it just flows after that. As far as the way I craft my shit, I try to keep that going. I like a lot of multi-syllable rhymes. I like to hear rap like that. When I started making music it was like, if I wasn’t a rapper and I became one, I want to make the shit that I would like to listen to. My favorite rapper would be someone who raps like me if I wasn’t a rapper [laughs].
TRHH: When I listen to you I hear pieces of Coremga, AZ, Big L, and Nas. Who were your influences coming up?
Rome Streetz: Nas, Big L, AZ, Jay-Z, all the golden era niggas really. Those are my favorites. The only artist I would say that wasn’t from the 90s era that I was influenced by was Kool G Rap. All of the golden era rappers – Snoop Dogg, The Lox, Big Pun – those are my favorite guys.
TRHH: On Noise Kandy 2: The Re-Up you have a song called “Master or Servant?” that I found interesting. It’s from a street perspective, but does the theme of the song apply to your music career as well?
Rome Streetz: Yeah, really, because I can say I like the independent grind, not saying I wouldn’t sign a deal, but coming from my background I want to reap the benefits of my own work. I wouldn’t want someone taking the majority of the share of my hard work and I just get left with ten or fifteen percent of it. Even with me creating my own vinyl, I could have gotten a deal for it, but I said let me go to the source and press it up myself. Let me do it like I was hustling. I put my money up, and I make my money back plus more. It’s been a process. Creating your own vinyl is a process. It took longer than I expected due to my cover not coming out like I wanted it to, so I had to wait to get that done. It took six weeks.
With that mentality, do it yourself — DIY. At the end of the day control your destiny. That’s what this is about – everything I’ve been doing from creating my own music and selling it. A lot of artists throw their shit up on SoundCloud trying to get their numbers up, but are you really eating off of that? Are you really making money off of that? Trust your fan base. Be the master of your craft. People say, “Master your craft” but you’re not really a master of your craft until you figure out how to monetize that shit. Those ideas kind of made up that song.
TRHH: What’s the key to monetizing your craft being an independent artist?
Rome Streetz: Put it like this, everybody is on Instagram, everybody is on Twitter, and everybody is on Facebook. You’ve got all these followers but are you selling them anything? At the end of the day as an artist, you’re a brand. You’re a business. Everybody wants to be an artist and make music, but they aren’t really selling anything. What brand do you know that gives away their product for free? I just figured that out. I got all these followers, how many of them are going to buy something off of me? When I found out there are people buying, I catered my stuff to those people. You have to figure out your own worth. You gotta know your worth. A lot of people are just doing this music shit for free – just for likes. They’re waiting for somebody to tell them that they can get paid instead of telling themselves, “I need to get paid for this.” Create your shop, whether it be Bandcamp or your DM’s. Create your shop and sell. At the end of the day, your favorite artist is selling their shit. That’s how I look at it.
TRHH: I saw you say on Twitter that ten years ago you had on an orange jumpsuit ordering the max on commissary every week. What made you choose music over the street life?
Rome Streetz: [Laughs] Yeah, man. It’s only two options with this street life shit; you can either be in a jumpsuit or in a suit with your hands crossed in a box. I’ve always been doing music, even when I was living that type of life. I always wanted to do music, so once I started doing it and getting paid for it, it was a no-brainer. Plus, I got into some shit. I didn’t want to be back in the orange jumpsuit. I didn’t want to be back in the court system, even though it’s easier said than done. I’m still dealing with something, but I’m almost done with it. I just decided to take this shit full-fledged because I can make money off it. It’s a legal way to make money and to keep growing. I know a lot of people that do music, not just my peers on Twitter or the ones you see me work with.
I know a lot of people in Brooklyn that do music, but they haven’t really figured out how to eat off of it. Once I figured it out it was, like, fuck it, I can do this. I can put out something and I know I can make $1000 off of a release. That’s a small figure, but at the end of the day coming from making no money and putting out music, to now I can guarantee I can always make this amount, I know I can sell my product and have people that will buy it, that’s what made it slip into a legal thing. And I’m still growing. I see where I can be in the next year to two years. Everything I’m doing can double. I figured out how to make money off it and sustain myself through connecting with my fans.
TRHH: You released three projects in 2018. Why did you drop so much music in such a short amount of time?
Rome Streetz: I would say because it just turned out like that. There’s a bunch of artists that do the same thing. I just wanted to keep everybody’s attention. I dropped one project and I saw how that moved. I saw the feedback that I got from it so I said, let me just drop something short. I didn’t want to go all year putting out one project and leave people wanting more. I’ll strike while the iron is hot. Every project that I put out I started getting more feedback from it, more fans, and more people buying it. So it was like, cool, I got something here. I always have a lot of music. I always wanted to drop something every quarter. I see a bunch of artists that drop a lot of shit, so it’s like, let me step up my work ethic. At the end of the day just dropping once a year is cool, but I’ll just strike while the iron is hot. People want more music from me, so I’m catering to the fans. I’m catering to them, basically. They want more, I got it.
TRHH: On the song ‘East Coasting’ you say, “The game sucks, too much copying/Kill Hip-Hop, but I’m the oxygen.” Explain that rhyme.
Rome Streetz: There was a point when I made that song that I felt like everybody sounded the same. Every rapper sounded exactly the same. It just killed it for me because one rapper comes out with a style and every rapper copies the style just to try to get that attention from the audience. Or the labels sign an artist just because they sound like another artist. At the time everybody was making trap music, club bangers, and all that shit. Everybody around me was grasping for the same feel of music so I was like, “You know what, I’m just going to do my own thing.” I’m going to take it back to what I know and start making the music that I like to make, which is boom bap, authentic Hip-Hop. Emceeing, not rapping.
To me what them niggas do is rapping. Emceeing is a totally different thing. My favorite emcees coming up didn’t sound like each other. There’s a lot of rappers on the internet in my peer group and we all choose the same type of boom bap beats to rap on, but in real life in Brooklyn the majority of rappers don’t rap like that. They rap like the Migos or one of the mainstream rappers. It’s a handful of rappers that rap how I do as oppose to mainstream style. Everybody is AutoTune and I’m not with that. That’s killing Hip-Hop to me because everybody does it – it’s over saturated. This is a breath of fresh air. A lot of people who hear my shit that I’ve known say, “This shit is so dope. It’s not like what you hear on the radio,” so it’s a breath of fresh air to the listeners, too.
TRHH: What’s your opinion on New York rap artists copying the southern style?
Rome Streetz: You know what it is? I wouldn’t say they’re afraid, but they don’t dare to be different. If everybody is doing one thing that’s what they’ll do. They’re doing it to fit in and not stand out. But that’s how the game works. That’s what the labels are forcing upon these people. They don’t want to sign you unless you rap like this, but fuck getting signed. You don’t need to get signed. You can do your own shit, build your own following, and just eat like that. A lot of New York artists are just copying what they think is working instead of creating their own type of thing. One of the biggest artists that we have is A Boogie, but he fuckin’ copied Dej Loaf and everybody else. He didn’t really come out with an original style. He just saw what somebody else was doing and flipped it like, “If this is what’s selling, I’m going to do that,” instead of saying, “I’m going to come out as me.” The game lost a lot of its originality. People in New York are just following trends, they aren’t setting them.
TRHH: A lot of emcees in your lane are rhyming over tracks without drums, you do as well, but you mostly rhyme over tracks with drums. Do you prefer one style over the other?
Rome Streetz: No, not really. I just like the sound of beats. It doesn’t matter whether it has drums or not. It’s crazy, because there are beats that I have, I like them and rap over them, and I actually thought they have drums, but they don’t traditionally. The sample has a little “tick tick tick” and to me that’s a drum pattern, but to everybody else it’s not. I don’t really need the drum. It doesn’t really matter to me, honestly. If the sound is dope I don’t care if there’s a drum or not.
TRHH: What’s your ultimate goal in the game of rap?
Rome Streetz: At first it was just to be respected by my peers. Every rapper starts out wanting respect from people that they respect. But then it was like, “Okay, I can make money doing this.” Ultimately, it’s to grow and to be able to eat off of it. I want to sustain myself and say, “This is what I’m doing.” I can probably get a deal, but I just want to continue making music on a high level. I want to be a top-tier artist. That’s my ultimate goal. To be able to take care of everything off of straight music, where I can make a million dollars doing this. I want to be able to grow to the ultimate level. That’s my main goal.
TRHH: What can fans expect to hear on the next full-length Rome Streetz album?
Rome Streetz: What they can expect to here is more of the Rome Streetz that they’ve been liking, plus a little bit of new shit. The next project is me and Futurewave. It’s called “Headcrack.” Headcrack is the highest point in a dice game. That’s the concept of the album. Life’s a gamble and if life is like a dice game everybody wants to roll a headcrack. Everybody wants to roll the highest point.
Purchase: Rome Streetz – Noise Kandy 2 – The Re-Up