Oompa’s New Album “UNBOTHERED” Unfurls a Journey of Self Discovery – And You’re Invited For The Ride
With a cadence and energy akin to the legendary Missy Elliott and the poetic finesse of Noname, Boston-hailed rapper Oompa arrived on the scene in 2016 with a sound and message that demanded attention. Since the release of her debut album “November 3rd”, Oompa has achieved incredible success as an independent artist delivering hard-hitting rhymes and powerful storytelling. From sharing stages with the likes of Charli XCX and Rico Nasty to winning countless awards for her music, the Roxbury-native has quickly become a name that needs to be on every rap fan’s radar. Best of all, she’s done it on her own terms.
Though Oompa’s list of accomplishments are seemingly endless, she’s never shied away from keeping it real, often drawing on her own life experiences in her lyricism. With her previous projects leaving no stone unturned as Oompa grappled with themes of pain, grief, and overcoming, her third album, “Unbothered” embraces a new disposition – joy. The journey getting here hasn’t been an easy one for Oompa, but making healing look easy isn’t what this album is about. Its birth into existence follows an uncomfortable period of growth and self-reflection for the rapper, during the height of global turmoil.
With the world feeling increasingly chaotic, Oompa felt compelled to create new music with the mission of showing herself and her listeners that “joy is possible… though it’s not always easy”. With its lush sonic soundscape and playful freestyled verses, “Unbothered” paints a vivid picture of a world where joy, healing, and learning to “just be” are the norm.
We caught up with Oompa to discuss the album and her creative process. Keep reading to learn more and be sure to stream “UNBOTHERED”, which is now out on all platforms for you to enjoy.
Congratulations on your third full-length album. That’s a huge accomplishment for any artist, especially an independent one! First question – what inspired the name “Unbothered”?
Oompa: I appreciate that. I can’t believe I’m on the third one already. Feels like it was just yesterday I was begging for studio time from anyone who would listen.
Unbothered came because I just like the duality of it. It could come across as apathetic–which is protective, but not the full scope of what I intend. What I intend is stillness, peace, and presence. I aspire to be so UNBOTHERED by perceived harm or things that are out of my control. I wanted the title to feel like the goal post of my own journey, but also, represent the music on this album. In this way, it is a goal, the reality, a promise, and a prescription.
Looking back at your first two projects, “November 3rd” and “Cleo”, to now, how would you describe your evolution as an artist?
Oompa: I think the first two albums were catharsis: me needing to be heard, believed, and understood. November 3rd was the first time I stopped to really look at the events of my life up until that point, as well as a promise to my mother that I would make her proud by being successful. Cleo was context for those events, and a promise to myself that I would find joy. Unbothered is knowing that the work to find joy is not performative. It’s ugly and not everybody deserves the blood of it. It is not a promise, but a relic of the work I’m doing to unearth joy and peace every day. Something I can return to when I forget. If it’s a promise at all, it is a promise that I would just be.
On “Unbothered”, I can hear a really diverse array of sounds, from New Orleans bounce, gospel, to R&B. Were there any specific artists that came to mind as inspirations during the production process?
Oompa: That’s a really interesting question because I don’t know if I’m supposed to admit this haha, but Beyonce, Missy Elliot, Drake, Meg The Stallion, and Magnolia Shorty, strangely enough, were the answers to the question of “How would _________ approach this verse on this song?” Sometimes I feel like I know who would be the perfect feature on my song, and then I approach it how they would. So it’s really like I’m featuring on my own joints.
You layer some really complex meanings and emotions across the record. How does a track like “Outta Patience” for example, which airs some of your frustrations with the world, lend itself to the overall message that “joy is possible”?
Oompa: Because part of joy is knowing when you’re not going to keep doing other people’s work for them. If they’re mad at you for living freely and confidently, and want to sabotage that for you, it’s because they can’t possibly see that for themselves. If people loved the phase where you were struggling to get gigs because they liked to see you hustle, but don’t want to see you attain what you hustled for, that is a mirror to how they see themselves. That is not my problem any longer. Because I have things to do. And I’m running out of patience and won’t keep tolerating it.
Your songs often channel your own life experiences, with some of your earlier work really delving into darker times for you. What helps you to feel comfortable in being so honest and vulnerable in your music?
Oompa: Because it’s my truth. It happened and I’m not ashamed of it. And not having a lot of family, I ended up working through a lot of this stuff internally. I needed to get it out of me so I can hear, see, and call it by name. By doing so too, I’d hope anybody listening would feel less alone. I also feel that without vulnerability, true connection and intimacy is not possible. More than anything else, I feel like love and connection is the answer, so it feels easy to do.
I know the songwriting process differs a lot between artists. Walk us through your creative process:
Oompa: My creative process has changed over the years. Initially, with the cost of studio time being the biggest obstacle, I would get pre-made beats sent to me, feel for what they were about, and then write all the lyrics before I ever got to the studio. That way, time spent in-studio was just for working on recording vocals and nothing else. Time was money before. I didn’t have the studio nor recording expertise to do it any other way. This is mostly how I’d approached things up until now. When the pandemic hit, I was able to invest in my own studio equipment and found so much opportunity when the clock wasn’t ticking to just play. I learned how to record myself and am learning some basic mixing skills now. I would freestyle verses and have the room take chances in a way I wouldn’t before. When Dephrase (engineer/frequent collaborator) and I decided to work on this project, it evolved that process even more. Dephrase has a way of making the money and clock disappear when in the studio and unleashing the power of play even more. I’m very grateful for that.
You’ve described yourself as “forever representing the queer, Black, orphaned, hood kids n’ them”. As an artist, what does intersectional representation of the communities you’re a part of look like to you?
Oompa: Intersectional representation looks like non-erasure of any of those identities for the comfort of the person talking about or engaging with any of them. Oftentimes, I’m asked in implicit ways to leave one or more of my identities at home when I arrive somewhere. Sometimes I’m asked to leave my obvious Blackness, sometimes I’m asked to leave my gender presentation, sometimes my sexual identity is tucked away while I’m representing Blackness, etc. However, I cannot be present anywhere where a part of me doesn’t show up. I’m no longer doing that, but sometimes the ask is there.
What advice would you give for any new artists reading this wanting to enter the music industry?
Oompa: “RECONSIDER. READ SOME LITERATURE ON THE SUBJECT.” – Andre 3000
Ha, no. I think you just have to know you’re in it. You have to commit and know who you are so no one can ever tell you who you’re not. But also the first thing to note is that it is an industry, and it is a business.
What’s next for Oompa?
Oompa: A nap (laughs). No, hopefully, I can work on my films now. Film has been something I’ve been taking interest in over the last few years, as I’ve been thinking about new ways to tell stories. I also have two new music projects already in progress too.