Monday, December 04, 2023


Highlight rap track from album Manhattan, showcases artist Fortitude’s style 


By Kurt Beyers

If the artist Fortitude’s musical style had a name, it might be Wisconsin rap. For one thing, he was born and raised in Wisconsin. For another, his rap has a straightforward, upper–Midwestern vibe to it. The lyrics, fast or slow, carry an unassumingly narrative, poetic quality.

They say something. “Fortitude,” the highlight single from his album Manhattan, dropping November 6, is about different kinds of courage and strength. It is told in scenes from wars America has been in.

I’m on the beach,

My buddy dies,

My other buddy, 

Wails and cries,

Bullets fly 

Across the sky,

Rosary beads,

Will I survive?

He doesn’t quite know how to describe his style.

“I’m not sure what to call it myself,” he said. “It can be introspective at times, and then other times it can be — oh, I don’t know — descriptive of things.”

He says he would call it hip-hop, because it is rap, but more rap than hip-hop.

“It’s funny, because when I play it in my truck the computer identified it as electronica, so there’s a bit of that in there. My producer really kind of gets into that kind of stuff. So, he’s put a little of this flair to it.”

The album’s music was inspired by Kendrick Lamar, one of his favorites, and one he cites as a heavy influence on him. Fortitude, 28, has been making music since he was 19 and rapping since he was 23.

“Some people define certain parts of Kendrick Lamar’s rap as either introspective rap or consciousness rap,” he said. His own lyrics have some of both in them, “but I wouldn’t say it’s exact.”

His influences are wide. A very partial list is Pink Floyd, Alice in Chains, grunge rock, the indie band Alt-J. Among rappers, the early Drake and A$AP Rocky join Kendrick Lamar.

The word he eventually comes up with to describe his own style is “reflective.”

“It doesn’t fit very well into any pre-determined genre.”

His music is not fun music, but it is fascinating to get into the lyrics and the music behind them. It is not music to dance to or music to have in the background. It demands attention to what it is saying.

All his releases have come this year. The first was a four-track EP called August Letter.

The beats, melodies and instrumentation behind his rap vary widely, and he wants to give credit to his producer Seyed (Amir Omrani).

“Some of the songs, he’s running the show, and other songs, I was running how the rap was going but he was running everything else. So, you’re hearing the creation of two people.”

Some of his lyrics he writes to specific beats, he said, and others “were poems, initially.”

“Most of the songs were written differently, and I wrote various flows and melodic tones.”

His tracks tell stories and are about something, as in “Fortitude” being about different kinds of courage.

“The idea of the song is about the virtue of fortitude. The different sections represent different things. In the beginning you have the tough soldier responding to combat. He’s just pushing through.”

The second part is about a more difficult kind of courage. The song has scenes from different wars, World War I and II and Vietnam.

The last section is about Vietnam veterans who came home, not to a hero’s welcome, but to what was at best indifference and at worst open hostility.

“He just doesn’t feel like a hero anymore. There’s courage in the face of battle, and then there’s courage in the face of being at odds with the people that you fought for. It’s a different kind of courage, a different kind of fortitude.”

I step off the plane on American soil,

People are spitting, 

Swearing and scowling,

They think they are soldiers,

Inside a war,

A war without bullets,

A war without gore,

What was I fighting for?

Fortitude is an Army veteran himself. He never had to deploy in combat, but he wanted to honor the veterans of American wars.

He is remarkably free of ego in his creations, and he is in full control of his ambition. He creates music for the act of creating.

“I just want to continue to create for as long as I’m inspired to continue to create. I don’t really have any aspirations for fame, or for a career. If this is music that people like, and people listen to it, and I gain some money for it, then that’s something. Or if people ask me to perform, I would perform. I’ve done it before. Primarily, I want to work.”

Connect to Fortitude, coming soon on all platforms for new music, videos, and social posts.

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