From Wikipedia: Indigo children, according to a pseudoscientific New Age concept, are children who are believed to possess special, unusual, and sometimes supernatural traits or abilities. They are sometimes also referred to as crystal children or star children.
In PAC Talk, RP Hooks’ new self-produced single, the hook repeats a mantra: “I overanalyze know I’m an indigo/ I’m just releasing my demons”.
PAC Talk is brilliant. The slow Revenant sample riding over the top of booming 808s fills up your head, and an eerie voice synth panning around the sphere of the song creates an introspective, melodramatic sound. It’s the butterfly emerging from the long-developing chrysalis of RP Hook’s career. It’s a powerful emotional appeal to aloneness and drive, to unfulfilled potential and trapped minds. It’s simultaneously a black power anthem and a Kid Cudi-esque effort to escape from himself through his art.
He raps: “I think too much when I sit in my room, I doubt myself for no reason…love of my life she a diamond it’s just too bad she can’t see…I’m smoking blunt after blunt after blunt cause I need it…I’m a Huey Newton mixed with Nat Turner…and when they kill me just believe the movement… and all my niggas we afraid of freedom!”
I first became familiar with RP Hooks’ music late in high school when his first group, The Tribe and Big Cats (stylized as TTxBC) released their final EP, SPACE. I was immediately hooked on the bright, vibrant sound, expertly crafted and produced by Big Cats and solidified by Hooks’ (then known as Truth be Told’s) resonant, raspy voice and penetrating flow.
In La Policia he yells a semi-revolutionary mantra of rebellion and personal fight:
“Fuck the police, this is for my homies / Grinding every day so you can’t say that you don’t know me.”
PAC Talk seems to be the final evolution of those seeds of thought planted so long ago. There’s a an intense, noble desperation in Hooks’ flow as it shifts from the sorrowful, almost hopeless feeling of being trapped, recognizing one’s own vast potential but feeling unable to realize it (an indigo aura supposedly indicates a person driven to change the world) into the strong, violent call to revolution later in the song.
Hooks was kind enough to offer Burning Tree Magazine some of his time to discuss America, anime, and his upcoming projects.
RP Hooks is here. So is the revolution.
Burning Tree Magazine: First of all, I just wanted to say thank you for doing this interview. We’re just a small magazine trying to spread some positivity and knowledge.
Rapper Hooks: I’m just glad I can help out man, that’s awesome.
BTM: It’s kind of weird for me to even be doing this interview. You’re one of the reasons I love hip hop music so much.
Hooks: Thanks man, that means a lot.
BTM: You’ve definitely got fans out here. I saw that Sway in the Morning thing and I hated it.
Hooks: It was good for me cause I need to hear that shit man. I got to know what my shit is like in those major markets.
BTM: That’s a good segue into my next question. Do you feel it’s dangerous to produce stuff that’s very artistic but it’s not going to catch on in the club and it’s not going to have this Rihanna type market?
Hooks: Not really because I feel like no matter what people are gonna vibe with it. And when you hear it live it’s gonna be different from when you listen to it on your headphones. I try to push a live show aspect on it a lot when I make music. Like, I make everything for live shows. So even though it’s dark and eerie, it still has that live vibe to it.
BTM: What got you into production? Have you always been producing or did you start out as just a rapper and then get into it?
Hooks: I started right after The Tribe and Big Cats because I needed beats.
BTM: Personally, I thought SPACE was an incredible album, and to me it sounded like a lot of time and care went into it, but it never really blew up. What was it like to create something that was so good, and then have it not get much recognition?
Hooks: We knew that was gonna be our last project together, so that’s probably why we took so much time working on it. it was like a bittersweet time for me to figure out my shit type project.
BTM: You have a very unique production style on that album. I guess you could call it a jazz banger. How did you guys create that sound? Was it a concerted effort to come up with that sound or is that just how Big Cats produces?
Hooks: That’s just how he produces. Like, all the songs came from him showing me beats in the studio and me just taking them home and writing stuff to them.
BTM: As a producer, how do you choose your sounds? Are you specifically looking for this really ambient, eerie vibe, or are you just kind of screwing around and seeing what comes out of it?
Hooks: Yeah I usually just fuck around. Like, I’m putting out a video tomorrow and I sampled the Revenant.
BTM: That’s dope. So what was the best experience you’ve had on tour? What was one night that really stood out to you and made you say, this is where I want to be right now, I’m glad I’m doing this”?
Hooks: Aw, man. In Prague. I was in Prague. I went overseas for the first time last year. We hung out in Prague before we went to Ukraine to play a show, and that was unlike anything else. Cause, America’s fucked [laughs]. Like, just the idea of America and everything is fucked. And seeing how people treat you overseas and just seeing a whole different vibe and some new love. That’ll make you wanna do more music.
BTM: Do you guys have a big following in Europe? Did you do any big shows or anything or was it more of a small tour?
Hooks: It’s random. They play my shit a lot in Germany, and we get played in Israel. We played a couple shows there, we did a radio interview there.
BTM: Wow, that’s really cool. So what is it that bums you out about America?
Hooks: You seem like you’ve got some Negro in you [laughs].
BTM: You know what’s funny? This is gonna be a sidetrack from the whole fuckin’ interview, but I’m a hundred percent white.
Hooks: You’re white bro? [laughs] You need to see your ancestry dot com bro, it’s online!
BTM: I work at a bar, I’m a barback, and this is constant. Every night I get girls coming up to me like, “What are you, are you Colombian?”
Hooks: Bro, you might be Jewish or something but you’re not a hundred percent white.
BTM: [laughing] Yeah, you got it, my granddad was Jewish. Anyway, so what is it that bums you out about America?
Hooks: It’s just the lack of love, man. Everything is just… capitalism doesn’t work. Nothing works. Everything’s just.. shitty. But it’s fun, so whatever. It’s shitty but it’s fun so whatever.
BTM: Who are some current rappers who you really fuck with, who no one really knows about? Like kind of on your level of not really known, but putting out some really good shit?
Hooks: Man… [at this point he asks a girl in the room, “which rappers do I fuck with?”. She laughs and says she doesn’t really know.]
I mean yeah. As of late I haven’t… The only like real rap I listen to is like older rap and Culture by Migos. Like that’s really it. I listen to culture by Migos and I listen to Big Pun. And fuckin… Tupac and shit like that. Just because I need to listen to more shit and I’m working on a project and I can’t be listening to my… I can’t be listening to people I don’t really know right now.
BTM: In the video for Dopeness, you have a Suicidal Tendencies shirt on. What musical influences do you have? Is it just hip hop or does it come from all over? What did you grow up on?
Hooks: My hip hop shit comes from my uncle. He was a DJ at the Metro in Chicago. Like way back when. So when I was younger, like a little kid, I met like, Common before he went to college, and shit like that. All these old heads, you know? But I played guitar in a thrash band in high school and just shit like that.
BTM: That’s really cool. There’s this trend that started with Jay-Z dropping the Kurt Cobain references, and then A$AP Rocky did it in Phoenix and Fashion Killa, and it seems like hip hop has really started to come around into embracing grunge and punk fashion and style, so I think it’s cool that you’ve got that influence behind you.
Hooks: Bro there’s a movie on Netflix right now, about a punk band, an all-black punk band, that the Ramones got their style from. You gotta check that shit out.
BTM: Yeah, that sounds amazing. I’ll definitely check it out. So you’ve cycled through a few monikers throughout your career. What’s up with that? Cause it started with Truth be Told [Hooks laughs]. That was back in the day, and I’m just getting this from going through your Twitter and shit, but now you’re simultaneously Savage Randy and RP Hooks, and at one point you were sort of also The Tribe while you were Truth be Told [Hooks laughs]. So what’s up with that? Like, do you ascribe a lot of meaning to the names?
Hooks: So The Tribe was me and that dude AOP, the other white dude who was in Big Cats…
BTM: Could you get into that for one second? Cause I thought it was just you and Big Cats, so what was his role in that?
Hooks: It was me, Big Cats, and this dude named P. Then, with TTxBC, that was just me and Big Cats.
BTM: Ok, so you had a three person group, and then when you did Space you two just split off and did your own thing?
Hooks: Yeah cause he used to produce shit but he just stopped producing. Like, bro. You can’t get a third if you’re not gonna do shit [laughs].
BTM: Alright so yeah, where did Truth be Told come from? Where did these names come from, and what’s the significance of them?
Hooks: Truth be Told came from this anime that I watched. When I was in high school I went by Blur, and Blur was one of the Transformers in the Destructocons, cause I’m a fuckin nerd but anyways… it was some off brand cartoon shit. And then I hated that name, so I think Rapper hooks came after that. And then I started producing, and I got sick of people calling me a rapper. So RP Hooks… and RP Hooks didn’t really mean anything until the other day when someone was like, doesn’t RP stand for Rapper Producer? And I was like yeah of course. Of course.
BTM: And so then what’s up with Savage Randy?
Hooks: Savage Randy’s the goon. Nah, Savage Randy is when I produce. Cause I do ghost production and ghost writing and shit.
BTM: Ok, that’s another topic I wanted to get into. Have you produced anything or written anything, obviously you don’t have to name any names, for like big producers?
Hooks: Yes, but I have an NDA so if I tell you, you can’t put it in the interview.
BTM: Um. Can you tell me? Well nah I don’t even want to fuck with that, I’ll be fine not knowing. But good for you, I’m stoked, that’s dope. [Hooks laughs]. Damn, now I wanna know though. I’m gonna guess and say.. I don’t know bro, my only guess has gotta be A$AP Rocky or like Joey Badass or one of those guys who uses that style.
Hooks: Nahhhh. It’s someone that fucks with Diddy. I’ll just say it’s someone that fucks with Diddy.
BTM: I’m gonna be on my sleuth mode for the rest of the night [Hooks laughs]. So some more technical production questions: What DAW are you in? What VST’s do you like, what plugins do you use?
Hooks: I use Ableton. Ableton’s my shit, and then Gladiator, Iris, those VST’s. Kontakt, I use Kontakt. That shit’s dope. Omnisphere’s my shit. Omnisphere 2 is a muhfuckin beast.
BTM: I feel like you have a very unique flow, when you’re rapping anyway. Cause it’s simultaneously melodic and it’s very on beat, but it’s not like a clipped Tyga style or like a clipped Migos style. It’s kind of a throwback. It reminds me in some ways of Nas or someone like that, who kind of integrates the beat into their flow, so is there any particular lyrical or flow related influences you have from when you first started listening to hip hop?
Hooks: Man, growing up all I listened to was like, 3 6 Mafia, and Bone Thugs, and like Twista and Nas and shit. I didn’t fuck with Jay-Z growing up so I never was into that punchline rap shit.
BTM: So what is up with Moses Majestic? [Hooks laughs] Can you just give a quick rundown of what the deal is there?
Hooks: I was just feeling myself and I wanted to make an art fuck film… I just wanted to make like a super artsy film and like, I thought it was cool. And the chick I was talking to at the time was a dancer, so I had access to a billion ballerinas. [laughs]
BTM: You talk about a lot of anime influence and all that kind of stuff… How do you feel that the popular culture you’re into influences your music and the style you want to put out?
Hooks: I mean. I use all the references from that shit. I like to go back and touch on it. That’s just.. I mean I should rap about that shit if I like it. It’s a part of my life.
BTM: So for all the Anime heads out there, what’s your favorite all time anime production?
Hooks: [immediately, no hesitation]: Cowboy Bebop.
BTM: I thought I was gonna get some super underground unknown thing.
Hooks: Nah bro, I love Cowboy Bebop. That was me and my uncle’s shit. Cowboy bounty hunter? You can’t beat that.
BTM: Actually, Afro Samurai. If you haven’t seen Afro Samurai…
Hooks: Yeeaaaah, Afro Samurai’s the shit. But the second one was like, they did too much with the second one.
BTM: They really did. They took away all the really cool philosophical aspects of the first one. Like the second one was dope, but it’s like, alright bro, how many heads can you cut off in one minute. [Hooks laughs]
BTM: Where are you trying to go next? I know you’re coming out with that new video and all that, so what’s the new project you’ve got planned out?
Hooks: My new solo project’s called Deep in the Woods, and it’s just my shit. And it’s like, I wanted to do one last super melodic project before I do like more uptempo shit.
BTM: So you’re kinda transitioning into that… I don’t wanna say more mainstream style but are you consciously looking at getting into more faster paced stuff?
Hooks: Like my style but with more mainstream progression.
BTM: So is AES all instrumentals?
Hooks: Yeah. I made that when I went to New York, and that’s when I started fucking with Universal and shit, with the ghost production, ghost writing shit.
BTM: So how did you actually get into that? What’s the whole story behind that?
Hooks: It was random. The entertainment attorney at Universal and Def Jam found me online, and they started working with me.
BTM: Really? So they were just combing through Soundcloud one day and found your page, basically?
Hooks: Pretty much. Then they looked my shit up and saw what I was doing.
BTM: That must’ve been a cool phone call to get, huh?
Hooks: Hell yeah, that shit was awesome.
You can follow RP Hooks on Twitter: @RPHOOKS