If there’s one thing that Oompa wants you to take away from her music, it’s that she means it. Every word she says. “What I’m saying is true and I want you to listen even if you’re dancing, I always want your ear to be equally as present.”

Javon Martin

It wasn’t all that long ago that the poet, rapper, and advocate came barreling into our world, giving agency to the LGBTQI community. In 2016 she released her critically-acclaimed debut album November 3rd, leading to spots on several regional top albums of the year lists, and a 2017 Boston Music Awards New Artist of the Year nomination. She was also a finalist at the 2016 National Poetry Slam, and in 2017 she became the Women of the World Poetry Slam champion, earning her national recognition.

And while Oompa remains a persistent voice in our local music scene, she’s poised to transcend any day now.

Things started ramping up when she began performing at if you can Feel it you can Speak it, a local open mic series dedicated to the LGBTQI community of color. “I’ve been going there since before I was supposed to be going there, just feeling stuff out and trying to figure out what was it I wanted to do.” she says.

Her journey began with poetry, and she gradually worked up to her real passion - rap. But that path wasn’t easy, especially when it came to the first couple of times she got up on stage. “It was nerve-racking because it meant, ‘you’re doing this’,” she says. “But it also opened my eyes to the fact that this was the thing I wanted to do forever. And people didn’t expect me—as a woman—to come with that kind of performance. I was singing my gay-ass songs and both guys and girls were clapping and vibin’. I knew that it was important, because I knew they rocked with me and were not just, ‘oh you’re nice for a girl’.”

One of Oompa’s favorite concerts was an Anson Rap$ show called Surprise. And like most local shows, the organizer had to wear multiple hats to make it happen. “He had to rent the room, use his own money, and him and his business partner did a lot of creative marketing to get tickets in peoples’ hands,” she says. The show featured performances by herself, and fellow local hip-hop artists Billy Dean Thomas, and Casso. “It was crazy to see the range of hip-hop in that room. We all did something different and there was space for all of us, and that was special.”

Javon Martin

Most find it easy to identify distinct hip-hop styles from cities with strong industry roots, like Chicago. But Oompa feels that’s not the case in Boston, an area that is still trying to nail down the idiosyncrasies of its own sound. “I think there are so many genres and so many people represented that there is no the sound,” she says. “It might be because we are in this initial stage where we are trying out everything, and there is no unified identity musically yet.” And for her, that's a good thing.

You can walk into the Boston music scene and you don't know what you're going to hear. I think that is something that is very unique and makes you put your ear to the ground for what you like.

Oompa may be on the verge of breaking out, but her Boston identity remains important to her, and she's putting in the effort to keep it local. She records at The Record Company, an accessible, non-profit recording space for Boston-based creatives, and is working with local producers as much as possible. “I am developing an identity as a recording artist,” she says. “And I try my hardest to get everything from local artists like Latrell James, and people who understand what I want.” And when it comes to distribution, she sticks to Tunecore, and online service that distributes music to streaming services and tracks listens and revenue for the artists. “I just pay my $27.99 and hope for the best.”

That's the plan for now, at least. The momentum of some recent performances, like the first annual BAMSfestin Franklin Park earlier this year and being voted one of the Boston Herald’s New Favorites of 2018, indicate that there may be bigger opportunities in the future. But for now Oompa is focused on progress, and discourse, and the quality of her distinct sound — one that she's undoubtedly honing for her second full-length album in the works. We can’t wait to hear what she has to say next.

The Boston Music Awards recently selected Oompa to be a part of the 617Sessions, a program that recognizes Boston-based artists who are making great contributions to the local scene, and rewards them with a day of studio recording.

Visit 617Sessions.com to learn more.