Jerome Rex fuses classical Motown sounds with neo-soul and rap to create a sound that reflects the cultural melting pot that is Cape Town.

His notable achievements include the 2019 Ghoema award for Beste Hip Hop Album with his recently released project, Al Jerome. He also boasts 2 previous Ghoema award nominations for Beste Afrikaanse Hip Hop Liedjie Van Die Jaar 2017 and 2019. Jerome has had multiple singles charting on Good Hope FM’s Hip Hop Top 30, with 2 of them peaking at No.1.
These and other singles also charted on local radio stations Bush Radio and CCFM, and continue to enjoy airplay on community radio stations around the Western Cape.

A career highlight for Jerome was performing at the Oppikoppi festival alongside his childhood hero DJ Ready as part of a Brasse Vannie Kaap tribute. Other notable festival appearances include Suidoosterfees and KKNK, where the production he was involved in (Rymklets van Oos tot Wes) won a Kanna award for best musical production.

He also appeared in Die Riel Van Hip Hop, another theatre production that earned a Fleur du Cap award for best musical production.

His winning album, Al Jerome, is a passion project that samples the music of Al Jarreau, over which Jerome has written his own original music. Jerome’s project was financed by a crowd funding campaign on the popular Thundafund platform, making it a massive team effort by everyone who contributed financially to get it off the ground. 

His album beat out competition from fellow nominees HemelBesem, Early B and YOMA to take home this prestigious accolade. Being the only nominee based in Cape Town, this is a proud day for Afrikaans hip-hop in the city.
I recently caught up with the talented artist himself to find out more about his journey.

RUAN: You recently won two Ghoema Awards, which is an amazing achievement. What was it like when you heard your name called out?

JEROME: It was unreal! I couldn’t believe it and as I walked towards the stage I kept expecting someone to stop me and say it was a mistake! Being on stage making my acceptance speech was a trip too – you see your heroes doing it and to be up there was a mad experience.

RUAN: What does this award mean to you and your career?

JEROME: I view the award as a form of validation for the work that went into the album, and into my music career before that. All of us who worked on the Al Jerome project consider to be a great piece of work, and to have an independent panel affirm this is a great feeling.

For my career it’s an encouragement to keep forging ahead and making my music on my terms. The phrasings and delivery of my words aren’t usually as accessible as the mainstream songs I compete with, but I know my audience – my listeners are intelligent and discerning and won’t be talked down to. I feel like this is confirmation that we’re on the right track.

RUAN: Performing with other local artists in the Lyrics Still Matter show at the Artscape Theatre must have been mind blowing. What was the experience like?

JEROME: The Artscape is an amazing venue with a lot of history, and the name carries weight in the arts community. It’s a great feeling to contribute to that history, and also to expose people to the theatre experience who haven’t previously had the opportunity or the interest to go there.

There are 12 cast members in Lyrics Still Matter, and we’ve built strong friendships and camaraderie during the planning, scripting and rehearsal process. Being on stage alongside this phenomenally talented team was very fulfilling because everybody wants to see everyone else succeed and deliver the best performance that they possibly can.

When we play together we’re one another’s biggest fans and it’s a great motivator to have that energy backing you up.

RUAN: What are some of your future music projects we can look forward to in 2019?

JEROME: For the second half of 2019 I want to tour and share the Al Jerome album with everyone I can. Over the years I’ve had supporters travel long distances to attend my shows. I’ve also had people from all over the country buy merchandise or contact me to share what the music means to them.

Besides promoting the album, the tour is about thanking people for their support by visiting and performing in their towns.

RUAN: How has your music grown from just being a dream to now a career and passion and might I add an award—winning national artist?

JEROME: When I first started taking my music career seriously, I would search social media for events in and around Cape Town and contact the promoters to beg them for space on the open mic.

From being seen at open mics I started getting booked to open for other acts and, later, to headline events. When these bookings didn’t always pan out the way they were sold to me by promoters, I started hosting my own events so I could manage the audience experience more closely.

Being so busy all the time is stimulating and energising and, as exciting as the journey has been so far, I’m very excited for the road ahead.

RUAN: What are some of the sacrifices you experiences thus far in your music career?

JEROME: Sleep is a big one! When I’m working on a big project and the deadlines are looming I’m often up through the night so that I can be around my wife and children during “normal” waking hours.

Also, because I try to take away as little family time as possible, my friends and extended family have gotten used to meeting up before or after shows – if they didn’t come to my events for those mini-hangouts, we’d definitely see a lot less of each other.

RUAN: How tough is it to be a husband and dad and still be touring across the country?

JEROME: Being away from home is very hard. When our children were smaller I’d deal with a lot of guilt about leaving my wife to look after them by herself. It helps that we’ve agreed the purpose and goals of my career and she’s fully behind that vision.

Also, having oumas and oupas to help look after the little ones is also a blessing. When people think of a creative team they immediately picture the manager, producer, engineer and so one, but my career would be nowhere without the help of our family network as well.

RUAN: Can you share some of the lessons you have learnt as a musician, artist and businessman?

JEROME: As I connected with other artists who were more experienced and successful than me, I saw that they were doing the same thing, only on a grander scale – where I was hustling for open mics, they were looking for bookings on big festival stages.

It’s impossible to advance your career without this drive to continuously push for more and better opportunities and I’ve tried to adopt some of the habits that I observed from my elders and heroes.

I’m also a big advocate of understanding the various functions within the industry, even if you plan on outsourcing them – know what the roles and responsibilities are so that you don’t get short-changed by service providers.

RUAN: What advice would you give to our youth who would like to follow in your footsteps?

JEROME: If someone wanted to follow in my footsteps I’d tell them not to! Find out who you are, what kind of artists you are and what kind of art you want to create. Define success for yourself, write down a plan and then work that plan hard!

There are many industry best practices we can learn from and use, but ultimately no 2 people are going to have step for step the same journey. You need to learn how to take on good habits and practices while still remaining uniquely you.

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