Read GQ Magazine’s short description of its Grammys after-party, thrown at the Chateau Marmont hotel in Los Angeles and co-hosted by YouTube and Chance the Rapper:
“If the hotel’s walls could talk,” GQ’s editors write, “they’d tell you [that the party] was incredibly lit. Like ‘Chance the Rapper won three Grammys’ lit. Hours after the Chicago native cleaned up, guests ranging from Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg to John Legend and Chrissy Teigen packed the fabled lobby to listen to a wild performance by Migos while mingling with the music industry’s best and baddest.”
Now imagine that you’re 24 years old — not too long removed from the mop-water and metallic scented hallways of Oak Park and River Forest High School. You don’t attend that Grammy Awards show because tickets are somewhere in the universe of $1,000 a seat, so you settle for a quieter watch party among friends somewhere cool in L.A.
By the way, Chance the Rapper is also your friend, but he’s busy being the toast of the Grammys at the Grammys. The both of you are close enough, however, that he enlisted your help while crafting a song that appears on “Coloring Book,” which nets Chance Best Rap Album.
A plaque, commemorating your contribution to this album — which isn’t just any Grammy-winning album, but the first streaming-only album to ever win the award — should be mailed to you soon. In the meantime, Snoop Dogg is reaching out to shake your hand.
Meet Kevin Rhomberg, also known as Knox Fortune. He’s a singer, song-writer and producer, whose vocals anchor the upbeat song, “All Night,” on Chance’s “Coloring Book.” On his Instagram account (it’s knoxfortune for the curious), Rhomberg posted a selfie, along with a pithy, one-line caption that cannot be more clarifying: ‘Last night makes no sense #grammys.’
“That after-party was, like, the epitome of an Oak Park dude in a celebrity environment,” Rhomberg said during a phone interview last week.
“Quincy Jones and Don Cheadle were there,” he said. “All of it was just surreal. And the crazy thing was that they were all there for Chance and his team that made the album, which included me. We had the ability to walk up to all of these celebrities and they were proud of us. They wanted to meet us.”
Rhomberg is currently on tour with one of numerous music acts he works with. He is Chance’s friend, but he is also kind of a big deal in his own right. His songs have been featured in major ad campaigns and TV shows, including HBO’s “Ballers.”
The Oak Park native, who currently lives in Wicker Park, said that his appearance on “Coloring Book” — along with names like Kanye West, Lil Wayne, T-Pain and Justin Bieber — came about almost, well, by chance.
It all, apparently, happened one day last May, when Chance approached Rhomberg rather randomly with a record. Rhomberg had known the now-famous rapper for several years after having met while they were both navigating Chicago’s underground Hip-Hop scene.
Rhomberg told Complex Magazine last year that Chance wanted him to fake a British accent on the record, but he refused, saying that wasn’t the type of thing he did. Instead, Rhomberg did what he does do (he’s credited with singing the hook on the record) and Chance loved it, the producer said. Still, Rhomberg was surprised when he was emailed his contract papers.
“Pat [Chance’s manager] had been telling me since I did it that it was going to be on the project, but I thought he was gassing me [boosting his ego],” Rhomberg told Complex.
Rhomberg’s life since then has been GQ-level surreal, he said. Even though he lives in Wicker Park, he’s often on the road, or off to New York or L.A.
“My life’s changed drastically in the past year,” he said. “It’s a little strange, but it’s fun. I still have friends I grew up with in Oak Park and we’re still close, although I don’t have as much time to spend with them. It’s exciting, though.”
It’s also sobering. Rhomberg, who was producing music while he was at Columbia, said that he’s grateful that success is happening now; rather than earlier in his life.
“If I had gotten some of the checks I’m getting when I was 19 years old, I wouldn’t know what to do. I probably wouldn’t be careful to reinvest in myself,” he said. “I’ve seen people make lots of mistakes in the industry. A lot of times, it can be tough, after you get that big check, to remember how you got it.“
That subtle, grounded approach to burgeoning stardom could be Oak Park’s greatest influence on Rhomberg.
“Oak Park inspired me in a lot of ways. It taught me what was out there as far as making something of yourself. You live among a lot of successful people, but you’re also close enough to the city to be exposed to that side of things,” he said.