Rapper Hooper James’ evolution from high school to now: new music and a weekend of performances

Hooper James debuts unreleased tracks.

Photo+by+Portteia+Xaraiya+

Photo by Portteia Xaraiya

By Selene Bonafini, Collegian Contributor

One night when he was 15 years old, now-rapper “Hooper James,” known also as Hooper Ward, wrote and recorded the song “Whatever Okay” on a PS4 microphone in his parents’ car.

He drove by himself to a park near Melrose, Massachusetts, his hometown, and in the quiet of the night, he went to work on a song that would end up taking him two nights alone in the car to perfect. The recording was not great quality at first, but he would eventually record it in a real studio and release it as a single.

“I didn’t realize [then] how good it could potentially sound until I recorded it and dropped it,” Ward said.

With a newly-released EP and a fully-booked weekend of performances, Ward is aiming to step up his game.

Ward released the music video to “Whatever Okay” on Sept. 9, which was the first music video he ever filmed. With about twenty friends, an empty parking lot and some fake money, Ward shot the video in one night before getting shut down by the cops.

“I was like ‘you know what? We need a music video,’” Ward said, describing the spontaneity of it all. He called up a bunch of friends, bought them pizzas and had a lot of fun making the video.

On Saturday, among other artists, the rapper performed at The Drake’s Stash Bash at 7p.m. On Friday night, he opened for The Lights and The East Coast Oracles at their house, before another performance at midnight outside Antonio’s.

Ward performed unreleased tracks, “350 Recount,” “Arrangements” and “Wolf” at The Drake on Saturday. “It’s going to be a dope a** show,” Ward said last week.

His first performance was at UMass Got Talent last year where he came in second place by about five votes, behind dancers Kat Lopez and Katya Taylor, who opened for Jack Harlow. “Five votes outta 350, recount,” he rapped in the unreleased song.

“I’ll take my losses and I’ll take the wins,” Ward explained, saying that if he hadn’t lost the talent show, he wouldn’t have had the inspiration for that song.

Ward said he is working on getting closer to his “sound” and trying to evolve as a rapper. He believes that the newest unreleased songs are the closest he has gotten to “his sound” but he emphasized constant improvement.

He admitted that in the EP released in March, “PoetryOverPoetry,” he was trying to do what was “hot” in rap, but in his new songs he is expressing himself and what he has to say more than before. He said even though “at the end of the day, they are rap lyrics,” that his newer songs are more creative and hopes that people can see that, too.

“Bank account teller, this dude know my name/For certain a regular, I will not change,” he raps in “Bank Account Teller” from his EP.

The past two summers, he earned money working three jobs to support himself and his dreams. He said that he wanted to push himself until he couldn’t push any longer and wanted to feel his hard work pay off at the end of the day. He explained that if you work hard every day, “there’s no way you won’t succeed,” and success is his goal.

The first time he shared his writing publicly was when he read a memoir telling the story of an important moment in his childhood. He recounted the anger and confusion when he and his family found out his dad was doing drugs, before his dad was “sent away” for a while.

“Pain is inevitable,” he said.

In his unreleased song, “Feeling of Home,” Ward talks about growing up fighting for the “feeling of home.”

“I don’t medicate, I’ll just turn to a zombie/ I don’t wanna live in a world without me,” he rapped. Ward refuses to do drugs, drink or use nicotine because of his past.

“I’m just doing everything right now to put future me in a better place,” the motivated rapper said.

In order to get where he is today, he said he just kept writing and writing until he was making songs, gradually getting better and better at it. After starting to make music in high school, “my lust towards it just kept on growing,” he said.

Last Saturday, he eagerly jumped on an opportunity to perform. After a show at a friend’s house, he spontaneously decided to get up on the stage and freestyle. Drummer Peter Draco laid down a beat and Ward said, “I have never freestyled that good before. I don’t know what happened.”

Ward loves to perform and wants to do it more. He is always looking for more opportunities to play his music, whether it be at a frat house or at a venue.

“Just talking about it, I realize that it’s my passion… I like to do big things,” Ward said through a smile. He hopes that with his music he can make an impact on people, whether it be for a lifetime, or just a day.

Tickets for The Drake on Saturday can be bought online at https://www.thedrakeamherst.org/events/stash-bash-amherst.

Selene Bonafini can be reached at [email protected]