Rome Fortune, a bit player in the nebulous “new ATL” movement thanks to two slow-growing mixtapes (last year’s Beautiful Pimp and this year’s Beautiful Pimp 2), turns trap music inside out on his latest, Small VVorld. Here, the heaving maximalism of Southern rap proper bumps in the background while all of those small sounds float into the foreground. And Rome’s conversational delivery has been replaced with something more fervid. He echoes early, hungry Kanye West: Full of personality with an obnoxious confidence, twisting a whole subgenre to fit his needs.
Start with the day-glo-nerd twerk of “FriendsMaybe” (featuring bedroom trapper and next big ATLien ILoveMakonnen), in which Rome threatens to “turn this Williamsburg apartment into Jumanji.” His delivery marries Andre 3000′s recent off-the-rails, often-offbeat spoken word to Gucci Mane’s rubbery complexity. On “Why,” essentially a dirtbag version of Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend,” Rome matter-of-factly tells a boyfriend how he hooked up with the guy’s girlfriend during an Uber ride to a show. Uber!
The beats (most notably from Bassnectar, Blood Diamonds, Four Tet and Suicideyear) are self-consciously odd, so Rome’s regular-guy specificity goes a long way towards grounding Small VVorld. And the real-talk hookup politics of “Why” also put Rome in the same space as Rich Homie Quan and rap’s few other reasonable rappers — dudes willing to accept the idea that women are onto them and often running their own game or, at the least, aren’t head over heels about these guys (or any guy, really) and know exactly what the hell is going on.
This is a rewarding, immersive record that never quite does what you’d expect it to do. “Flashback,” from Bassnectar, is missing a drop, intentionally so (it is also about crippling self-doubt that comes when you have time off); the highlight, because it is hilarious and sounds like it could be a hit, is “5 second RULE,” a shameless DJ Mustard rip-off by Suicideyear fueled by Rome’s ridiculous conceit — it’s about how if your girl’s ass drops to the floor for five seconds or less, it is still chill to um, “eat it.” Meanwhile, “Workin’ Gal,” also produced by Suicideyear, sounds like Rome found a hidden portal in the bathroom of the shake club, climbed through it and ended up in a magical cave full of crystals. And so Rome Fortune recalls Kanye West as of late as well, his aesthetic also equal parts ass and art.