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Rkomi, Dazed x Bershka - lead image

RKOMI is the Italian rapper inspired by the sounds & style of Milan’s youth

Get to know one of Milan’s most urgent exports, as he launches a special clothing collection with Bershka

Milan has always been a nebulous city, a Hydra-headed Italian epicentre for the most fervent voices defining fashion, music, and art. Moving away from the Puccis and Serafinis; the grand musical conservatory and eurodance-heavy club circuit; and into the eastern Milanese suburb of Calvairate, we’re met by a new cohort that’s reweaving the creative fabric of the city, putting the hip hop community on the map. Leading that pack is RKOMI, a rapper with an amorphous sound palette and urgent message of social change and resilience for Italy’s youth.

The 25-year-old, real name Mirko Manuele Martorana, dropped a one-two punch of an album in March this year, the funk and pop-traversing LP Dove Gli Occhi Non Arrivano (translated roughly to Where the Eyes Don’t Arrive), and has spent the last summer on a gloriously chaotic tour around his home country. Now, in a new collaboration with Bershka, he’s launching his own clothing capsule collection. A heady mix of acid wash, dip dye and plaid prints, the clothing line includes some killer staples and special pieces: jeans, shirts, a jumper and denim jacket. The dappled mix of denim, print, and rich textures reflects the musician’s personal style.

RKOMI tells Dazed that he and his frequent collaborator, stylist Silvia Vinci, were inspired by “what we see in the streets” of Milan and its burgeoning youth. “We tried to translate this in the most personal way possible,” he shares. RKOMI, representing Milan, joins the likes of UK-representing Let’s Eat Grandma, Berlin’s nostalgia R&B queen Ace Tee and Barcelona-based pop and dance star Nathy Peluso in designing a defining clothing line with Bershka.

The musician kickstarted his career as a DIY artist, first embarking on a hospitality course and working as a bartender, crafting beats and lyrics as a passion project and hobby. After a series of amateur mixtapes made with fellow artists and producer friends (including Italian hip hop scene stalwarts Tedua and Izi), it was 2016’s pummeling Dasein Sollen record that marked his major breakout. “Suddenly, this new world opened for me once I came out with my first EP,” he says. Regarded as a rapid-fire musical bildungsroman that speaks to a vexed generation with a hopeful vision of the future, it soon went platinum, and made him a forerunner for Italy’s indie rap scene.

“Finally, there’s a market for it in Italy,” he says. “There’s an appetite for it from the new generations, but also something has shifted in the way rap and hip hop are seen by older, ‘legendary’ musicians, with much more respect than it used to, and there’s a lot of support from other artists and from our fans.” RKOMI’s shows, in heaving, sweaty club settings and expansive international festivals, are a testament to the power of the new wave.

“For many years it felt like the new generations were a bit disconnected from what the music scene had to offer, whereas now they can really relate to the lyrics – they get to know more about themselves and they feel represented by it. Overall, it’s a great moment to make music. Let’s hope it lasts!” he says sunnily. One of his most popular tunes, “Liam Gallagher”, reflects that mission for his passionate fanbase, a cut-throat and cocky track about knowing your worth. 

And while RKOMI personifies an urgent new gen of Italian rappers, he’s in pretty good company with fellow artists like Ghali – whose trap-effacing music brilliantly speaks out against xenophobia and racism – and Priestess, famed for her intimate but ravaging lyricism. 

“I am a huge fan of self-made people,” RKOMI adds. “Not only in the music field. I am definitely inspired by Kanye and Kendrick, the former for his artistic and creative side, and the latter for his lyrics and human side.”

“My true idols are not under the limelight, they’re everyday people, unsung heroes who you can often encounter in your path, the people who surround me in my everyday life, I owe them the most,” he says, his music and clothing designs speaking directly to that spectrum of people. 

Though his Instagram presence and new line would say otherwise, RKOMI first found fashion an alienating concept. “When I started, I was just a boy from the province, coming to the big city, the fashion world was quite intimidating and often associated with something frivolous,” he says. “But fast forward a few years... the fashion world has really inspired me. I can see how art influences fashion, and fashion influences art itself – it’s a circle. I have started to explore more and keep an eye on the trends. I feel influenced, but without being obsessed with it, for sure.” His video output reflects his continued narrative of resilience and triumph; the cinematic “Fuck Tomorrow” and the sprawling, hopeful scenes of “Visti Dall'Alto”.

Self-education and personal growth have always been the driving force behind RKOMI’s new-found place in both the fashion and music scenes he inhabits. Hailing from the province and with a family outside of the creative world, he’s totally self-taught – whether tracing musical lineage back to The Beatles or contemporary Italian legends like Gué Pequeno, or being hands on from the concept to the production of his Bershka collab. The year ahead will see more gig circuits and creative pursuits. “I can see how important this is to my formation as an artist,” he says. “Life is long, still.”

RKOMI’s Bershka collaboration collection is available to buy online now, and from select stores in Italy from September 23. To celebrate, RKOMI will perform in Milan’s Vittorio Emanuele store September 26. If you’re in Milan, you can enter the On Stage competition to win tickets to the gig – if not, keep your eyes on our upcoming coverage of what’s set to be a banging show.