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.
“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.