One may say it’s a bit easier to be a rapper-turned-actor— just look at talented multi-hyphenates like Queen Latifah, 50 Cent, Eve and Common as proof. But when the titles are flipped? Eh, not so much. (Yes, we know Drake is an exception to the rule.)
Moonlight and When They See Us star Jharrel Jerome accepted the challenge with the release of his debut single “For Real,” featuring fellow Bronx rapper Kemba. And for the record, the New York City native started rapping before getting bit by the acting bug.
“Before I became an actor, hip hop was my first love. I grew up listening to everything old school, from Slick Rick, to the Tribe, to Big Pun,” Jerome wrote on Instagram. “I was the one spitting off top at the lunch table in the sixth grade. If there was a freestyle cypher happening at the park, I was there. Being from the BX, rap was in my blood whether I knew it or not.”
Jerome used his acting checks to fund studio sessions and buy recording equipment to “find my sound, my voice, my cadence, and my style.” Six hundred sessions, 80 songs and four years later, the Afro-Latino actor thinks he’s found it.
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Before I became an actor, hip hop was my first love. I grew up listening to everything old school, from Slick Rick, to the Tribe, to Big Pun. I was the one spitting off top at the lunch table in the sixth grade. If there was a freestyle cypher happening at the park, I was there. Being from the BX, rap was in my blood whether I knew it or not. Before my life changed, I had no idea I’d want to turn rap from a hobby to a career. But given my acting platform and these unbelievable blessings through the past few years, I decided to hone in on my music. Since 2016, I’ve been putting all the bank I’ve made from my films into studio sessions and recording equipment; trying to find my sound, my voice, my cadence, and my style. 4 years, 600 sessions and 80 songs later, I think I’ve found it. After countless nights of figuring out how I want to package my music, I decided to start small. My first single “For Real” is just a glimpse of who I am as an artist. To my core fans, I am a mysterious figure on social media. So this record explains my fear of social media and allowing people in. Although i’m able to carry an air of confidence with me at all times, I still trap myself inside of a shell. Hiding from the praise. Hiding from the attention. Hiding from the expectations. It’s due to a question I constantly ask myself now, amidst all the panic, change, and outside terrors: “How do I stay real?” —————————————————Listen to the world premiere of my first single, ‘For Real’, featuring my dog @kembaland and produced by my boys @takeadaytrip on @applemusic with @zanelowe tomorrow between 9:30 and 10am PT.
“For Real” is a bit autobiographical, especially on the heels of last year’s much-deserved Emmy win for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie, which the 22-year-old entertainer received for his gripping portrayal of wrongfully-accused Exonerated 5 member Korey Wise in Ava DuVernay’s Netflix gem,When They See Us. The track explains Jerome’s “fear of social media” and why he hides from the praise for his acting chops.
Reminiscent of a young Kendrick Lamar, he raps: “No longer the same, no. Dang, can’t think of the fame. Can’t think of the pain, no. But all my demons keep me eating. Every evening tell me…”
Jerome’s “For Real” is streaming on all platforms. Watch the Spence Hord-directed video for the single, below.
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