Rome Streetz is having a year. The New York underground stalwart has been dropping lyrical gems for over a decade now, but more people are paying attention than ever, thanks to his Death & The Magician collaboration with DJ Muggs and show-stealing appearances like his “Kill All Rats” verse with Conway the Machine and Ransom. Westside Gunn recently told Complex that Rome gives him that ‘90s feel, and that’s what led to a signing with Griselda.
Rome says his name comes, in part, from killing cyphers and rap battles all over New York City back in the day, making valuable friendships and connections in various neighborhoods because of his skills. It’s fitting that his name harkens to a journey, because it hasn’t been a simple path for Rome. He was born in London and moved to New York City as an infant, before his mom sent him to live with his aunt in London to keep him out of trouble. While on the cusp of getting a record deal at 17, though, his aunt sent him back to New York. During our phone call, he divulges that he also endured the “ups and downs” of jail stints that hindered his career.
Even when he came home and locked in, his gritty, lyrically dense brand of hip-hop had a more difficult road in a city where media personalities like Ebro were calling any artist without a radio hit a “minor league” artist. But those kinds of superficial assertions have faded enough from the scene to allow spitters to be unabashedly themselves. One can take a look at last year’s lyricist-heavy nominations for the Best Rap Album Grammy, for instance. Rome stuck to his guns through multiple generations of New York rap, and he’s now taking advantage of the times to have what he says is “probably my best year” as a rapper.
Rome has already dropped three projects this year (the Muggs project, Genesis 1:27, and Razor’s Edge), and he’s set to release his Coup de Grâce collaboration with Ransom at the end of the month. Early feedback from their early October Quad Studios listening session indicates that the project will be another ‘21 favorite for hip-hop heads. We spoke with him about his winding career, Westside Gunn’s genius, and why his “pen has adrenaline.” The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.