On the first Friday of every month, we put the spotlight on one up-and-coming artist. For this month’s First Look Friday we talk with Riverside-raised rapper Hook, who rambles when she raps.
As a teenager, Hook and her sister were part of an R&B girls group based in Riverside, California called 2backwardz. Hook sang but she also wrote hooks. Lots of hooks. So many, in fact, she gave herself the name Hook.
The group eventually disbanded. Hook moved on and went to college. During this time, her brothers and their friends would also make music and sometimes she would go to the studio with them. There she would start rapping herself.
“They kind of pushed me,” Hook said. “They was like, ‘Yeah, you’re hard. You need to just fucking do it.’”
So Hook dropped out of college and became a rapper. During this time she worked a 9-5 at Sonic that she hated but allowed her to save money to record. Eventually, she was able to connect with LA-based producer DJ Flippp, who said he would allow her to record with him for $70. She said yes and they recorded an energetic track called “90” that blew up locally.
And just like that, Hook slid her way onto the West Coast rap scene.
In summer 2019 she released her schoolyard-themed debut EP Bully. Produced enterally by LA–based producer Nedarb, the EP showcases Hook’s taunting style and unique cadence. It’s a style that allows her to take form over each beat. No two tracks on Bully sound alike, and Hook is constantly switching flows — even within songs.
After getting some good buzz and press from Bully, she released I Love You, Hook, just three months later. The densely packed but softer I Love You, Hook is a departure in theme from Bully. But Hook’s brassy personality and punchy lyrics still linger. The 21-year old has a laid back approach to her craft, and her whisper-scream delivery enhances her uniqueness.
On Hook’s most recent projects — Crashed My Car, which was released in February, and Pretty Bitty, which dropped this week — you can hear the rapper oscillating between braggadocious verses on glittering beats to tracks with raspy, echoed vocals. Hook teems with excitement and, despite all the different elements she plays with, doesn’t struggle to harness her energy into a cohesive sound.
With the success of her two latest projects, we decided to talk to Hook about her upbringing, her dream collaborations, and what she means when she says she makes “ramble rap.” She also gave us an exclusive behind the scenes look of her “Yes Man” video, which you can check out below.
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Give me some backstory about how you got into music
I started doing music at a young age. I’ve been in two girl groups with my sisters. At first, it was an R&B group. A lot of my influences came from a lot of R&B groups because that’s what I was in. I listened to a lot of what my mom was listening to. She listened to a lot of funk music, like Mary J. Blige and Beyonce — like the older Beyonce. And then I just grew up and my step-sister didn’t want to be in it. So it was just a two-girl group, a little duo thing, kind of like Kris Kross. I was in that group from 15 to 16. Not long. She didn’t want to do music anymore, so I was like, “Oh, shit. What the hell?” I didn’t know what I was going to do. I decided to go to college.
What did you go to college to study?
I was studying psychology. I wanted to be a forensic psychologist, but then I was like, “This shit’s not fun. I have to be in school for like, seven years to do this profession.” My brothers did music, too. They had a studio in the next city down called Moreno Valley, California, and I used to go over there, or they invited me one day to record type shit. And then they kind of pushed me. They was like, “Yeah, you’re hard. You need to just fucking do it.” So yeah, then I dropped out of college, because my mom saw I was depressed. I was working a 9-5. I was working at Sonic.
How did you get through that?
I just would use that to pay for studio time or try to pay for outfits for my music videos, and regular shit. And then one of these dudes from Passe Tape named Terrell Miller found me. He heard one of my songs on SoundCloud. He wanted to do a video for me. So I was like, “Oh, shit, this is kind of crazy. He noticed me.” Anyways, so he linked up with me, and he was like, “You actually need to link up with DJ Flippp and do a song with him.” And I was like, “What? DJ Flippp, Make the Money Flip? That guy? We’re talking about the same people?” And he’s like, “Yeah, you need to do that. I know him personally.” And by that time, I was like “I don’t know if I want to just keep working…” This 9-5 wasn’t stimulating my mind. You know that SpongeBob episode where Squidward just wakes up, goes to work, comes back. That’s kind of how it felt.
Working with people at a 9-5, they’re not dreamers. I could just tell I was hella-different. I didn’t think the same as them. So I ended up quitting my job. It was my last $70 bucks, or my last $100. He’s like, “DJ Flippp, yeah, he’s down to work with you. It just cost $70 for a session.” And I’m like, “Fuck.” First I was like, “Nah, I can’t do it. I got bills and whatever, shit.” But then I don’t know what, I just ended up saying, “Fuck it.” I got the session. And then ever since I did that song with him, I kind of did a trailer to it and then it went kind of viral.
That was fast.
Yeah, so we just ended up doing that whole tape [Bully] in the summer, and then he just got me really excited. I was always excited to do music. I always knew that there was nothing else I could be doing, but I got hella hella excited again. And then we recorded two tapes last year. After the BULLY tape, I recorded the I Love You, Hook tape. I just decided, like, “Damn, I just changed this whole shit up.”
Who are some of your influences? I see people say, “Oh, she reminds me of so and so mixed with so and so and so and so.” And it’s like, “OK, well, when you’re saying somebody sounds like four different artists put together, that means they don’t sound exactly like anybody.”
Well, it’s kind of crazy, because that’s literally what artists do or art is. For one artist, five people inspired them, and then you got to learn how to mix it all together, and that kind of brings you in. I’m inspired by a whole lot of artists, but I just understand the references they choose now because that’s all people know, and when somebody’s so different, humans just compare it, because they’re not used to it. In high school, my top people I was listening to was Tory Lanez, the Chixtape, I love all of those. I listened to a lot of Father, and [iLoveMakonnen]. I listened to a lot of Awful Records. Now I listen to Show Me The Body, Yves Tumor. I listen to some of The Smiths. The Drums, I fucking love them. They’re so hard to me. I listen to BKTHERULA, I listen to Kaskade. I love Tisa[Korean], he’s fucking hard.
What’s your approach to rapping?
For [a project like] Crashed My Car, it’s just a ramble rap. I just keep rapping, kind of go off topic a little bit, then I come back on topic, then it’s like, you’re talking about a orange, now you’re talking about a helicopter, you know what I’m saying? It’s like ramble rap. That’s what I kind of call it.
I like that, because especially now, being in this part of a digital age, everything is very fast. You get information quickly and switch topics really quickly. So I think it fits in with being futuristic in that sense. Everything comes to you and you can go through a full range of emotions in 15 minutes just being on the internet.
When I was growing up, fucking 10 to 17, I really wasn’t on the internet. I was on the internet, but it’s not as much as other people my age. I wasn’t tapped into how I’m in right now. So I feel like I missed out on a hella lot. I was honestly too young for MySpace. I never even made a MySpace. But even that era in general just inspires me and my music — as far as, like, my visuals, too. When people bring up the VHS and Polaroids and this, all that shit, I kind of just get it back from those times, because I missed out. I feel like I missed out on a great era. And I feel like going on in the future,
Even now, kids’ attention span is entirely way shorter than what it was for me. Literally, we scroll down a fucking feed and if we’re not entertained in three seconds or if it’s not something eye-catching, we’re not even going to look at it. So I kind of feel like I put that in my music…if I have a three-minute song, I can’t sound the same for a whole track.
Tell me more about Crashed My Car. It’s very different from your other projects.
Crashed My Car is hella futuristic. Is not from the past. It’s more 3017 rather than 2004, you know what I’m saying? Crashed My Car is way more me, in a sense. More of just an adrenaline thing. Like you don’t know what’s going to happen next. I’ve got in a couple of car accidents, and I literally have had different reactions every single time. So I feel like going through my own tape, you either going to be really lit or be like, “What the fuck is this?” There’s literally no in-between. I also feel like it’s either a hate or love thing. I feel like I’m just that artist where you can’t be in the middle with me. You either hate me or you actually love me. So I feel like Crashed My Car is definitely an exclamation mark, rather than just a semicolon or period or… it’s like an ampersand.
If you could collab with a different artist, who would it be? Any artist, in your dream world.
I really want to work with The-Dream, honestly. He’s so hard. I feel like I would go well with him. I want to work with 03 Greedo. Free 03. I definitely want to do a Tisa collab. Drake would be my dream. If I had a song with Drake, that would be insane to me.
Any last thing you want people to know?
I want people to know that patience is key. A lot of shit people be going through is because they don’t have a lot of patience, and they want to get to where they’re going faster, so they end up either half-assing shit, or they end up trying to do something the way they shouldn’t do it, not following the rules, I just feel like you’ll reach your goal if you invest in your goal correctly, if you invest your goal genuinely and shit.
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Alyson Lewis is a writer from Cleveland Ohio.