As Hip-Hop celebrates and expands during its 50th year, Jharrel Jerome stands as one of the shining, hopeful lights to a culture standing at a crossroads. The award-winning actor is an unlikely candidate for such a distinction, but give him a shot. Hip-Hop has permeated American culture so much that it’s no longer taboo for a rapper or an actor to bounce back and forth between disciplines. Jerome’s love for Hip-Hop and acting blossomed at the same time, with one garnering him worldwide success. Unlike other MCs, he brings depth and meaning to his music, similarly to roles like “When They See Us,” “Moonlight,” “Concrete Cowboy” and, most recently, the TV series “I Am Virgo.”
Speaking to AllHipHop.com, Jerome addresses being called “the next” Drake or J. Cole, stating he’s constantly evolving and learning as an artist. The Bronx native stresses he’s not chasing streaming numbers or fame but earning respect from his audience. Talking to Chuck “Jigsaw” Creekmur, he underscores the interconnectedness of acting and music, freestyling, character portrayal and lyrical flows.
On top of it all, Jerome shares his dreams—collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Jazmine Sullivan and more. Jerome certainly has the potential to be a future goat of Hip-Hop and Hollywood.
How acting impacted his love of Hip-Hop:
Jharrel Jerome: It comes from the storytelling stuff. As an actor, I think I do work that is pretty strong, some pretty heavy hitting stuff. So I knew when I wanted to be an artist, I had to meet that caliber somehow. And I think meeting that caliber requires really thinking about what you write and what you say. I could, right now, go in the studio and for 15 minutes, come up with four songs and say whatever the hell I want to say, and it’s going to go, I think. It’ll be a vibe. I think my voice will sound cool, and the beat was hot, and “Hey, this is it.” But for me, I’ve been blessed to be in the industry in a way of, “The work is important.”
So for me, the music has to be important. My mentality when it comes to a record, even if I want to dumb the record down a little bit, I want to make sure there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end, and that there’s some sort of story or some sort of message. I think that’s so critical. And the only problem is it’s hard.
On people saying he’s “the next” Drake or J. Cole:
Jharrel Jerome: I am the best I’ve ever been and the worst I’ve ever been at the same time. You know what I’m saying? I am sharp, but I still got so much left to learn. So right now, I’m putting the music out, not for the streams, not for the “Look, I’m the next Drake. Give me the billboard plays.” I’m not here for that. I’m here for the respect, and I’m here for… Even like the comments you made, just on some, “You’re spitting.” I’m here to implant that in people’s minds. And then I think that’ll open up doors for me to work with people who can teach me more and bring me more into this game.
Which he would prefer, rapping or acting:
Jharrel Jerome: If you ever ask me what I’d choose more, back then, now, later, it’s always going to be 50/50. There’s never one that beats the other. I fell in love with rapping first. I’m talking like 10, 11 years old. That’s when I really got into listening to the music, dressing like the music, moving like the music, talking like the music. I was 14 when I got into high school, and that’s when I started acting. I went to a performing art school. I didn’t start acting until 14, 15. When I fell in love with acting is when I realized they go hand in hand, to me. Acting and music, they’re the same. Acting, you do some improv. Rapping, you freestyle. Acting, you play a character. On the mic, you got the cadence and the flow. It’s all hand in hand. It’s just a creative outlet.
Jharrel Jerome reveals his dream collaboration:
Jharrel Jerome: A few, for sure. Kendrick, for sure. I definitely want to just get in the studio and hear us together. Cole, easily, but then he going to body me, so I don’t know about that. No, I would definitely would definitely try to hang in there with Cole. I would love Jazmine Sullivan on the hook. I think she’s so incredible, and I think her voice and my voice might sound cool if we try to tap into a specific sound. I can go on and on.
On the weirdness of being a celebrity:
Jharrel Jerome: Oh, yeah. We’ve had situations. I’ve had a couple situations. One of my weird ones is I was at an airport. I’m sitting down waiting for my flight, and I have a Wendy’s burger in my hand, bro. A soda in this hand and a sandwich. I was just like… I’m chilling, waiting for my flight. And this lady comes up to me, she’s holding a baby, like her one-year-old baby. And she’s like, “Oh my God, I know you.” And without asking, without saying anything, she puts her baby on me, on my lap. Burger thing. My soda tips over, soda tips onto the floor. And then the burger.
She’s goes, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry, man. Can you just take a picture with my baby?” I don’t know where that picture is, but there’s a picture of me looking mad, confused, and a burger in my hand and a baby I don’t know in my other hand. And I’m just like… It’s moments like that where I’m like, “Listen, I love where I’m at, but I could avoid things like that.” But hey, it happens. And you got to just take it with a grain of salt and kind of keep going.