Poet, rapper, and educator - the talented Oompa stopped by the WERS studio for a live session during Wicked Local Wednesday. After an incredible, stripped back performance, WERS’ Nicole had a chance to talk with her about learning how to write music, getting into the Boston art scene and more. Excerpts below.
On describing her sound:
People have compared me to if J. Cole and Lauryn Hill had a baby, and that’s been a very cool comparison. But I really enjoy gospel music, R&B music, soul music, and hip hop, and I think that maybe my sound has some of those elements hidden.
On studying math in college, to becoming a full-time artist:
I really enjoyed math in high school because I had a phenomenal teacher. But I was always sneaking away to do music stuff, but I didn’t know that music could be a career so I never entertained it. I just thought that it was something I did to enjoy myself and pass by lunch. But then there were some open mic opportunities, and I was a Posse Scholar, and they used to have this event on campus every year, and it gave me opportunities to express myself and I was like, “wow, this is amazing.” Kind of like, having different kinds of friends brought me out of my shell to do it more and more, to the point where I was a math teacher and then eventually I quit that job to become a full-time artist.
On her first show in Boston:
I guess the one that counted was in 2013. I was featured at the "if you can Feel it, you can Speak it" open mic, and I don’t even know if I was proper age, but I had friends who organized the event and I sat and prepared for like, way too long and it was terrible! I look at the video sometimes and think, "this was terrible!" But it made me realize I had a community and people who wanted me to do well. So that was the most important part of it all. It was hella nerve wracking.
On writing her first song:
I wrote my first song when I was in middle school. Really I was copying Eve and Left Out lyrics, and I would take out the end rhyme and replace it with my own word, and take out another word and then the internal rhyme and make it my own, and eventually I was rewriting whole lines and that helped me conceptualize what it was like to write a verse. And then I wrote my own verses little by little.
On other artists that have influenced her:
Kendrick Lamar, definitely, usually influences me. Aretha Franklin is my favorite artist of all-time, Beyoncé is probably second, then third is Michael Jackson. And I really like P-Funk, like George Clinton, probably Funkadelic, and the stuff on vinyl that my mom had me listen to. Like Motown stuff, you know?
On finding inspiration in other forms of art:
I think I just take from the world in general. I just observe, and I think art being what imitates that is really helpful for me to understand someone else’s perspective and experience and helps me build up my own. So I think I take from all art forms that are genuine and bleed and move me.
On what she would be doing if she wasn't a full-time artist?
So I was a teacher for some time, and I wouldn’t necessarily want to be in a classroom, but I would love to be a student support person. That’s the kind of the trajectory I saw myself on before I left, just because I love young people and I think they’re hugely underserved in the communities that I’m from. They’re just my babies!
On where Boston can see her next:
Oh, you’re the first person I’ve said this to in public! I’m releasing my album on August 10th. There will be a couple things spread out, like the bigger show will be at The Sinclair on August 10th.