Hip-hop success a team effort for Chicago’s Lil Romo

YouTube popularity of the rapper, whose debut album dropped last week, also lifts up the producers and videographers he trusts.

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Lil Romo poses for a portrait outside his studio in the McKinley Park neighborhood.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Englewood hip-hop artist Lil Romo wants the music industry to get to know him and his music.

His 13-track project “King Without a Crown” showcases subject matter that’s in lockstep with the times: violence, police brutality and social unrest, along with the trials and tribulations of a young musician having to change his environment based on his success.

In the track “Long Time,” he raps, “Wishing s--- was different, nowadays we can’t have any fun,” and another track named “War Is Won” has a similar mantra.

“When I heard the beat, I felt like, ‘Let the kids go outside,’” said Lil Romo, who is signed to The Programm/EMPIRE records. “Back in the day, we were able to go to the park and have fun and stuff, but nowadays you can’t.

“I have songs you could probably dance to, but then I have songs you want to cry to if you felt it in that way.”

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Lil Romo poses for a portrait outside his studio in the McKinley Park neighborhood.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The impetus behind the project’s name has to do with where Lil Romo views his place in Chicago’s hip-hop scene.

“I’m one of the youngest in the game; I’m crazy underrated, and a lot of people don’t hear me because of that,” said Lil Romo. “Everyone is a king in their own way, for sure.”

Lil Romo, 19, is surrounded by a team of producers and videographers who carefully curate his content.

Producers “OG Mic Will” Micah Williams, Kid Wonder and All Day were the beatmakers for the project, while Milky Made It is the video production team consisting of Mark Cukier and Brandon Demas.

One of Lil Romo’s videos, “223,” which was released on July 10, has more than 200,000 YouTube views, while “When I Was Down” has 505,557 views since dropping in April.

After a lack of consistency from videographers he worked with in 2019, Lil Romo found Cukier and Demas on Instagram and reached out.

Their working relationship can be best described as random. In one instance, the duo was called to film a video during a house party.

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The team working with Lil Romo (pictured with arms up) includes producer “OG Mic Will” Micah Williams (in UIC shirt) and videographers Brandon Demas (left) and Mark Cukier (right).

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

“They called me at 10 p.m., and I’m sitting at home like: ‘Damn, I really don’t want to go. ... F---, I’m just gonna go,’” said Cukier, who lives in the western suburbs.

Due to the success of Lil Romo’s videos, Milky Made It and Williams now find themselves in high demand from a number of Chicago musicians who want to collaborate.

“For me as an engineer, since I started working with them, my prices doubled,” said Williams. “He’s able to sell more music [Lil Romo], they’re [Milky Made It] able to record more videos. I’m able to sell more beats and get more engineering time.”

But Lil Romo’s music continues to be a top priority for the Milky Made It duo.

“We’re busy a lot, but we drop what we have to do so we can make it work with him,” said Demas, who says the shooting schedule has Milky Made It booked into late September. “My favorite part about working with him is that it doesn’t really feel like we’re working with him.”

That success has Lil Romo taking into account how he encounters fans, his social media presence (25,900 Instagram followers), his social life and the perception of the subject matter of his music.

“I don’t go to house parties — none of that stuff,” said Lil Romo. “It’s really about what you put into it. Some people put those vibes [violent lyrics] out there; you get back what you put out.

“For example, I post a lot of views, so it’s people [fans] that know me that I’ve never met. … If someone is staring too hard, they just want a picture. I was at the gun range when a fan saw me, posted a pic on [Instagram] and tagged me.”

While Lil Romo continues to maintain a matter-of-fact mindset when it comes to his success, he sees the team working together and making money for as long as they can.

“That’s the type of s- - - I need: to be around people that want to see me win,” he said.

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