Photo by Eric Richter
In the underground rap scene, HAARPER is a name that rings bells for his raw energy and his adroit musicality. Hailing from the Bay Area, his unique blend of heavy metal and rap has garnered him millions of streams.
Some of his songs include “Wtf U Mean'' featuring Freddie Dredd; has over 70 million streams, “The Alchemist” and “Bungee Gum,” which has over 40 million streams, and “iCARUS” at almost 15 million. In other words, HAARPER has been at work,
Speaking with BET.com for #Unboxed Vol. 34, HAARPER spoke about how he was nurtured in a home where music was prevalent and left a deep impression on him. At an early age, he saw music as an art form to love and a vehicle for self-expression.
“My parents shared a lot of music with me when I was younger and my dad would blast Metallica for example. When it comes to the rap world, it actually started with groups like Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit who mixed rap and rock.”
Growing up in a military family, HAARPER lived in several states, including Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Oklahoma, where he was exposed to various music styles, which he said made him “grow up faster because I had to meet new people, make new friends, and I had a lot of free time to myself to learn music.”
Eventually, HAARPER enlisted in the military in 2015, where he began to pattern his style after the legendary Memphis rap group Three Six Mafia and the Memphis rap scene.
“When I joined the military, I moved to California and I already started making beats but I wasn't even tapped into this whole new school underground scene yet,” HAARPER recalled. “ But I started getting into that but the thing is that a lot of those new guys will take credit for guys like me saying that they were the influences. Dude, I was listening to Three Six Mafia, the Prophet Posse, Lil White, and Lord Infamous.”
He also spoke about his affection for Project Pat and how he played a significant role in his development as a rapper.
“I’ve always loved Project Pat. His cadence, the tone of his voice to like, and his attention to details,” HAARPER said. “He really brought new life to words and with all the technicalities of his style. Project Pat just hits the brain right.”
While he has many influences, HAARPER fuses to be placed in a musical box. The genre-bending rapper believes that his music transcends any definition.
“I don't think I could put a label on my music. A lot of people would say it's drift funk but I wouldn't lump myself into that. My music is the product of old Memphis, and the Dirty South, mixed with aggressive new metal like old Korn,” HAARPER said. “I'm trying to blend those two together but in a subtle way.”
HAARPER gained worldwide exposure this year after going on a European tour with fellow underground rap sensation Ramirez, who collaborated on “Dead Space” earlier this year.
“We took our own team out and got very good content from the tour. Everyone was on the bus and we were able to all connect, get cool with each other, and become friends. It was just a very great experience. I'm super grateful for Ramirez for having me out for all that,” HAARPER said.
He also shared that experience taught him the difference between European and American crowds and how to design a show that fits each audience.
“I think Europeans go harder because they're not as spoiled as American crowds because they don’t have shows all the time. it's a scarcity thing so they appreciate it more, and they have more gratitude.”
Touring with Ramirez was also a proving ground for HAARPER, who recently headlined his tour by Sxmpra and Sinizter. According to HAARPER, the shows have been full of energy and filled with mosh pits.
“I learned a lot and it was good to be a warm-up act. I only did like 20-25 minutes. As the headliner, I’m performing for 50 minutes to an hour,” HAARPER said.
When he’s not doing shows, HAARPER is in the studio crafting new material for his ever-growing audience. He explained the process of making “Wtf U Mean'' one of his signature songs.
“So that was a collaboration with Freddy Dread who sent me over a beat with a hook on it. I held on to the song for a while which I actually do for a lot of my songs,” HAARPER said.”I don't put it out if I think the time is not right. This time, it worked very well.”
Since the release of his last mixtape, Emeralds, his sound has evolved from emotional, high-energy raps to displaying his versatility as an artist with catchy songwriting. Although he plans to release an album soon, HAARPER will continue to drop songs to grow his fanbase.
“The plan is to drop singles and I think a lot of underground dudes were doing that because attention spans are so short nowadays,” HAARPER explained. “But I think I have a big enough following now to where I can still keep the songs short. But we should be dropping a three three-song EP very soon.”
After making a name for himself, HAARPER shared some advice he would give artists on the rise.
“Everyone has their own path, but if something's not working, you need to step back and try something else. At the end of the day, just focus on the music and marketing."
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