Brussels’ troubadour rapper Roméo Elvis

Although a firm fixture on the local rap circuit, it is the recent release of his collaborative effort with Brussels-based producer Le Motel that established rapper Romeo Elvis as a force to be reckoned with. We talk to the down- to-earth wordsmith about his singular voice, how proud his parents are of him and why he chokes girls in bed.

What’s your name about?

My full Name is Roméo Johnny Elvis Kiki Van Laeken so I just chose which ones of those I wanted to use for my “artist name”. Thing is, they used to call me Elvis at school back in the days, even before I started rapping.

How did you first get into music?

I was born with music (Ronny Jordan) so I’d say I got into it really early. My father’s a musician and a singer, its always been his job since I was born so it was pretty normal for me to be around music.

When was the first time you started making music?

In 1997, on my dad’s album. But it was just a horrible song because I was playing piano and was only five years old. My father was just trying to have some fun so he kept the song finally. After that I taught myself guitar and started rapping when I was 19.

Can you pinpoint one person responsible for getting you into music-making?

My father. End of the story.

How would you describe your local scene?

The Belgian scene is a small sphere where everybody knows each other. But in the same way sometimes it feels like the culture is split in two, with Wallonia on one side and Flanders on the other. The language difference sometimes fucks us over because everything is divided in two. We could create many more bands, many more styles but we don’t communicate enough. At least that’s my opinion. Thing is, you could create the best French rap song in the world and it’d still only be heard by half the country. And maybe France. And the same holds true the other way. For the most part, the French-speaking public doesn’t know about Flemish rappers such as Woodie Smalls or Stikstof, even though the latter describe themselves as Brussels rappers.

Can you talk to us about your recording process?

I always work with OEL Record because we’ve been at it for a while and we both know each other quite well which facilitates things. I usually go straight into the recording booth as soon as I’ve got something I’m happy with because I’m too fucking impatient to wait before hearing it.

Can you describe your recording space for us and the neighbourhood around it?

It’s the place where all of us (from Back in the Dayz) meet up. It’s a small place which is important I think in order to keep the energy.

What do you find the most challenging when recording music?

Finding the right thing. There’s always one right thing to find in every song (intonation, energy, vocals, etc…). That’s the discipline I work on to create something that fits. Another challenging aspect of recording music is remaining efficient and knowing exactly what you want before doing it. Kind of the way a photographer pictures an image before capturing it.

Where do you feel the most comfortable?

Honestly, and with no pretention, my voice. It’s very strong and can’t really be broken.

Studio or stage?

Both of them. My voice is my weapon and the sound engineer is the same guy whether I’m in the studio or on stage.

Do you have any pre-performance ritual?

I try to stay off the weed but I’m always pretty stressed out so a little smoke never hurts. And my rider always specifies a few cartons of Fristi.

Can you talk to us about the artwork of Morale, your latest release with producer Le Motel?

Both of us are art school graduates. Le Motel is a graphic designer and I’m a photographer so we decided to create our own artwork. I wanted something with a face this time so I did a self- portrait bathed in the colour code that guided the release, and which was red.

What do your parents think about your music?

My father is really proud and sometimes even surprised by the way things are going I guess. And my mother is really proud too.

What question should we have asked you?

Why I try to choke girls when I’m sleeping with them.