Based in Des Moines, Rome Oliver has made a push for himself within the city’s scene, regularly maintaining a presence online through a series of solid track and EP releases, while also landing on several notable bills, opening for the likes of Sada Baby. Dropping his most recent collection of songs, November Saints 2, this past month, for this Q&A we connected to discuss a standout track from the release, while also touching on how he approaches collaborative work, giving back to his community, and Iowa Women’s Basketball.
villin: With November Saints 2, the track that stood out to me was “No Surprise.” You’ve put out a lot of music this year and I’m wondering what stands out to you about this the release that separates it from the other recent work you’ve done?
Rome Oliver: With #NovemberSaints2 I feel more vulnerable than ever. It was the first time really speaking about my daughter, opening up about my mindset towards being a new father. I also dove into a lot of reflection about my childhood and the dynamic between myself and my parents. I also spoke to the pressures of society and how I feel people’s focus tends to be in the wrong place, while still offering my usual perspective of the world and its blessings and struggles. With “No Surprise,” itself, I relay a powerful message about work ethic and never giving up. In the end, the results are by no surprise because I put in the work.
villin: “Survivor’s Remorse” is another recent standout that I was curious to learn more about. You touch on several personal topics in the song, but the idea of balancing the optics of success with a sense of internal harmony is one that resonates out to me: “Money motivated that’s a fact though, if I could trade it for some peace of mind I’d give it back though.” What was driving you with this song?
Rome Oliver: This concept comes from the realization of how short life is [and] losing a lot of friends through the years, whether that was from death or jail or just growing apart. Been doing this music shit for a long time and still going when I’ve seen hundreds of artists fall to the wayside. So, continuing to push forward, while also feeling like some of those people should be here to enjoy this with me. I’m big on keeping my inner peace, so if there was a price on it, I would definitely pay it.
villin: You’ve had a few key shows this past year, between opening for Sada Baby, hosting your birthday show, and being part of the Iowa Hip-Hop Showcase anniversary event. What are some of your fondest moments when considering this past year’s live performances?
Rome Oliver: The Sada Baby show was tough just because he has been one of my favorite artists for a while now, so that was dope to check off the list. But my birthday show was definitely the highlight of my year as far as performances go. It was also my first promotion as far as shows for my company Brknthoughts Media Group. We went hard to get that all together and we packed the event out! We had one of the most fire lineups and no drama at all! We have big plans for ’24, so everyone be on the lookout for that! I would like to point out that my standout moment of the year in general was #DayOnes, my collaboration with Empire artist Big Sad 1900! He is an artist from L.A. that my team was able to get connected with; also my highest streaming song this year.
villin: Pivoting slightly from live music to a different kind of event, could you tell me a little more about the Back 2 School event you helped put on? How did the idea come together and are there plans to bring it back for a third year in 2024?
Rome Oliver: As a kid we didn’t have a lot so we were always lined up at back to school giveaways tryna get that shit together. My mom did her best but she had five kids to raise by herself — four of us were adopted from four different families. So, we had some struggles coming up, which is why I feel sympathy for people who still tryna figure it out. As a kid all you ever look forward to is a chance to be great. I just try to do my part in keeping the hope alive! The goal is to complete our third annual B2S event in 2024!
villin: A few months back when it things were blowing up around Iowa women’s basketball, you put out the song “Caitlin Clark.” Could you explain the excitement you felt around that time and what were you trying to do with that song?
Rome Oliver: I’ve always been a huge sports fan. Caitlin is not only one of the best female hoopers I’ve ever seen, but maybe one of Iowa’s top college athletes all-time. It was a no brainer to show her some love. Wish her the best this season — I know she is about to change the WNBA next year!
villin: A couple months ago you dropped “Jealousy” with Sight Lives. When connecting with him about the song, he said you were friends with his older brother initially and that’s how you two first linked up. Do you find that your favorite collaborations come from organically meeting people compared to linking up with a specific purpose in mind of working together?
Rome Oliver: For me it doesn’t matter too much about whether I know you or not. I’m just a creator, I want to work with dope artists of all genres. Sight Lives has a dope outlook on life, in general, as well as the music, so it’s always good to be able to connect with people with a layered perspective. He has at one point been a brand ambassador for my clothing line #NuEnglsh apparel. He is one of many collaborations I’ve had recently. I got a single with Smoov G on the way, Dessy X, Honorroll Kid and talks of a collab tape with a couple artists on the way, as well! A lot more work coming from this side.