The hip hop community is getting ready for the drop of Roméo Elvis’ long-awaited debut solo album ‘Chocolat’ today. If the two singles ‘Malade’ and ‘Normal’ are any indication, this album will prove to be his most diverse work to date. If all goes to plan, it will also be his most successful work, breaking through yet another barrier everyone thought wouldn’t be possible for the native Brusseleir. With streaming numbers through the roof (almost 3 million Spotify listeners a month), a concert at Forest National on April 20 and another string of shows through dozens of locations in France, it might be a good moment to stand still and look back on where it all started for Roméo Van Laeken. He first fell on many people’s radar when he won 2 gold medals at the 2016 Red Bull Elektropedia Awards. This video we made with the man back in then demonstrates just how fast things have gone for him ever since:
The person to ask about the early days must be Fabien Leclerq aka Le Motel, his long-time producer and close friend with whom he released almost 3 albums worth of material (‘Morale’, ‘Morale 2’ and ‘Morale 2luxe’). “I never predicted the kind of traction he’s getting, not when we released the Morale albums and especially not now”, says Leclerq. (Click here if you want to see how they made ‘Morale 2luxe’). Couleur Café, Brussels’ most celebrated urban festival, booked Roméo for the second consecutive year in 2017. “That’s something we normally never do”, says booker Irene Rossi. “But as he’s such a talented storyteller who’s loyal, committed and brutally honest, we booked him another time and he gave us the most explosive of show of that year”. A few months later, Roméo topped this breakthrough year by conquering 5 gold medals at the Red Bull Elektropedia Awards of that year. An absolute milestone.
It was only the start. “Roméo is like a diesel engine: he started slow, but once he got going, there was no stopping him”, explains Belgium’s most renowned hip hop DJ Lefto. An extensive tour across France and a few key performances across Belgium marked a new beginning for the homegrown rapper. “Roméo has incredible charisma and self-confidence”. Which accounts for his appeal with so many different kinds of audiences. When he showed a sold out Ancienne Belgique what he got, music fans on the North side of the language border really started to take notice of what we were dealing with.
On the most recent Red Bull Elektropedia Awards, Roméo didn’t take home as many awards as he did last time (in part because he didn’t release a new album in 2018), but he won’t be grieving that as his sister Angèle claimed most of the titles. Luckily, he still managed to win the award for ‘Best Live’, according to him the most important one of the bunch.
Roméo is clearly someone who uses his platform to support the younger generation of rappers and the day ones around him. He regularly invites other artists to perform on his shows, collaborates on other tracks or invites friends on his rap specials. “Roméo is like a big brother to me”, says the young and upcoming Brussels-based rapper Lord Gasmique. “Not only was he one of my biggest inspirations, he was also the first one to give me a chance to prove myself, right from the beginning.”
“What I really like about Roméo is that he never does what people tell him to do”, says Le Motel. “He even makes fun of it. He loves to experiment, which is something crucial for the longevity of an artist”. Lefto agrees: “He clearly is someone who wants to try many different sounds, which is why there’s a bright future ahead of him”. Le Motel couldn’t have said it any better: “You never know what to expect – and that will not be any different for Chocolat. Music is his life, so we won’t see the end of him anytime soon”.