After stepping into the big leagues with a big hit single and rapidly becoming a big star, Lil' Romeo has seen his childhood dream come true in a big way. And that's in no way a small feat.
Romeo entered a crowded music industry in May of 2001, a time when hip-hop was replete with songs about sex and bling bling. An 11-year-old with clean lyrics was not exactly the order of the day. Not only did he break through rap's 'icy' exterior, but he did so by doing the unthinkable: on his debut single, "My Baby," from his self-titled debut album, he dared to dabble with an old school classic, namely the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back." Romeo added his own spice to it, sprinkled his own flavor on top and made the song relevant for a whole new generation. After just two weeks in stores, "My Baby" hit the #1 position on three Billboard charts: Hot Rap Singles, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Sales and Hot 100 Singles Sales. A hit was made and a star was born.
Of course, it didn't hurt that Romeo is the son of rap impresario Master P, but that alone was no guarantee of success. As it turns out, young Romeo didn't have to ride his father's coattail. He had the talent, charisma and determination to do just fine on his own.
With the release of "My Baby," the rapper became the youngest solo artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart with his first single, a title previously held by Michael Jackson. "My Baby," held on to the #1 position on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop Sales chart for 10 straight weeks!
Born Percy Romeo Miller in New Orleans, LA, Lil' Romeo was a mere five years old when his father's No Limit empire began to take flight. It wasn't long before Romeo knew that he wanted to follow in dad's footsteps. "I used to see my dad and all his brothers rhyming, so I knew I wanted to do it one day," Romeo recalls. "Me and my cousin used to sneak in his studio and make songs. The producer was mixing a song one day that I recorded a rap on while my Dad was out on tour. My dad heard it and came and talked to me about it. He told me he liked the song and he asked me if I was serious about it. I said 'yeah' and it went from there."
From there Romeo recorded his debut album, the success of which has spawned television appearances, a Nickelodeon concert special, an ABC Family Channel concert special, a Nickelodeon pilot-in-development ("Pieces to the Puzzle," which Romeo describes as a "modern day version of the 'Partridge Family'"), an upcoming starring role in the Universal film "Shorty," and, of course, his new CD, Game Time.
An excellent and well-practiced basketball player, (His AAU team coached by his Dad went to the championship the last 2 years) Romeo, now 13 years old, views the title Game Time as a symbol of where he is in his career: center court, ready to show and prove, ready to win all over again. And, most importantly, to have fun doing it. "This album is gonna be a lotta fun," he enthuses. "Uptempo music for the teens, the kids, grownups and everybody. I've been ready to do another album and get it to my fans for a long time."
Romeo says Game Time, though fun-filled, will reflect a degree of maturity. "I think what's different about this album is that I've matured and I knew the things I needed to do better and what I didn't need to do. It's just gonna be another great album."
One track on Game Time finds a socially conscious Romeo sending out words of inspiration to those devastated by the September 11 attacks. Romeo, who was at a photo shoot just two blocks away from the World Trade Center when the attacks occurred, says he wrote the song, "We Can Make It Right," a couple of days later. He explains, "That song is about everything that happened, the tragedy on September 11 and just telling everybody that lost somebody that we can make it right." In the song, which samples the same Broadway tune that Jay-Z used in his 1998 "Hard Knock Life," Romeo raps, "To the people when the World Trade hit the floor/And all the soldiers in the pentagon, God bless y'all."
Having written most of the album's 19 tracks along with his dad, Romeo says he set his own agenda for Game Time. "That was one of the things that was important to me," he says, "having input on my album. It's just been a lot of fun to write songs and to choose my beats. I chose music that I like and I think my fans will like too."
Romeo says the album, produced by Soulja Entertainment's Myke Diesel, C-Los Beats and the Beat Boys, is diverse, covering a wide range of subjects and techniques. "While I was in the studio, I tried not to listen to much music because I wanted to make sure I had my own given style," he says. "I have up tempos, slow songs, songs about situations. One of my favorite songs is '2 Way,' that's my first single. This is a real great album, real positive." And truly for his peers, he says. "The album is about having fun and also about, you know, kids things. "'Throw 'Em Up' - that's one of my favorite songs on the album too; and there's also 'Wanna Grow Up,' 'Richie Rich,' and 'Still the Same.'" The latter, Romeo says, lets fans know that even in the midst of his whirlwind stardom, he has not lost his identity. "'Still the Same' is telling all the fans that I'm still the same and I'll never change just because I'm supposed to be this big star. It's letting everyone know that I want to just stay a regular person." But Romeo does acknowledge the more extraordinary aspects of his life in the song "Richie Rich." "That's the song that's just telling you about me and all the things I accomplished," he explains.
Despite being the "Richie Rich" of hip-hop, Romeo says he still enjoys "just being a regular kid." "I still do regular things," he offers. "I go to a regular private school and I have a tutor with me when I'm on the road, so I still try to do normal kid things. I don't have time to go to the mall and walking through the mall is not as easy as it used to be, but I'm having a lotta fun making music." I guess not being able to walk through a mall without being stopped by fans for autographs is small price to pay for doing what you love.
If it's true that the apple doesn't fall from the tree, then it should be no surprise that Romeo wants to continue to follow in his dad's footsteps - even though they may lead him off the concert stages and away from the video screens. "I see myself someday being like him, just sitting on the side being a business person." Or, like dad, making moves on the basketball court. "I would like to be one of the best players in the NBA," says Romeo, his words sounding more like a declaration than wistful youthful musing.
And why not? At the age of 13, Lil' Romeo has already fulfilled one of his childhood dreams. He might as well start working on the others. But no matter how much he achieves, Romeo never forgets the importance of working hard and staying grounded and being grateful for what he has. "My dad always thought big, but I used to think 'Is everybody gonna like me?' and I wondered if I was gonna do well. Right now all the fans are being loyal to me and like me and I really appreciate that. I'm real happy. It's just a blessing to accomplish your dreams."
bio courtesy of The New No Limit Records and Universal Music Group
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