Lil Romo Credit: Courtesy of Ashford Media Group

In a recent Illanoize Radio interview, south-side rapper Lil Romo said he started to approach his music more professionally in October 2018, after he dropped “Realla (Scrilla Remix),” where he raps like he’s trying to outrun the anxious, zippy instrumental. Since then, his career has seemed to draw on the energy of that track. He’s dropped four singles since February, and most of them have racked up at least 100,000 YouTube views. His most recent video, for the forlorn “Long Time,” hit 10,000 views in less than two days—and I imagine it’ll reach ten times that soon, given how expertly Romo and rapper Duke Da Beast slather their verses in Auto-Tune sweetness. The song exemplifies the pop proclivities that color Romo’s new debut, King Without a Crown (The Programm/Empire), where he leans into the euphonic wave of drill that’s come to the fore over the past couple years. The bulk of the album uses refined, gentle melodies that seem to console him as he raps about his fallen friends. But Romo can sound harsh too, when the feeling moves him—he really bares his teeth on “Let’s Do It,” where his terse lines hit hard enough to raise welts.   v