Boston-based rapper Oompa makes music as empowering as it is energizing and sonically unique, and her latest single “Lebron” is no exception. In the beat-driven track, her powerful voice raps about independence, confidence, and trusting yourself. “I’m the judge/And the jury/And I call it how I see it,” she declares in the first verse, going on to interweave biblical and basketball references alike into an upbeat self-esteem anthem.
Oompa came up with the idea to sing about pro basketball player Lebron James when she was contemplating who embodied “that feeling of feeling like a bad bitch,” she explains. “I was like, who must feel like a bad bitch all the time? It’s between Drake and Lebron — it’s got to be Lebron. It doesn’t matter what conversation Lebron is in — he just seems so unaffected by people’s opinions, and he outperforms himself. It seems like he’s always in competition with himself.”
She aimed to give a sound to this stance of being who you are and not worrying about anybody else through punchy drum patterns and a strong bass track. “I was like, when I’m in the club, I want to feel this tickle my sternum,” she says. She also incorporated sparse, sometimes nonsensical lyrics that flowed naturally without much thought — a style she’s applied to the whole of her forthcoming album Unbothered, which comes out October 1 and includes “Lebron.”
“I just wanted this whole project to be about fun for me,” she says. “It’s about removing this pressure to be a better lyricist or songwriter or have a better production team — all the things that suck the life out of making music. I never give myself that space; I’m super precise. [But here] I give myself permission to say things, and I think that comes through in the record. It feels fun and like summertime vibes.”
That would just as accurately describe the video for “Lebron,” which features Oompa shooting hoops and dancing on the basketball court with friends. “It’s really about seeing the city come together and having a great time on the court,” she says. However, it also alludes to the story of how the rapper got her stage name. “I used to play basketball at Washington Park, and all the older kids would call me ‘Oompa Loompa baby’ because I was short and chubby,” she recalls. This, for her, was a Lebron moment — not just because she was playing basketball, but also because she put herself out there and didn’t worry about what other people thought.
In a broader sense, her upcoming album revolves around the concept of joy. “Joy as aliveness, joy as a commitment to being on Earth, and also this idea that joy is not a constant; it is not a thing that once achieved, you get it forever, but it is about the commitment to the pursuit of it and finding joy in the pursuit,” she explains.
Her latest single, “Go,” for instance, captures the kind of sound you might hear by the pool on a tropical vacation, with dreamy synths, warped vocals, and a catchy R&B-inspired tune as she sings about the bliss of a new relationship that nevertheless seems doomed from the outset. Paying homage to funk and soul, the song was inspired by a moment Oompa shared with a partner. “We were in a convertible with the top down, and I was like, where are we going? And at the time, I was just completely avoiding all the red flags with a particular relationship and was like, we’re just gonna have a good time. It’s the summer, the top is down, we’re just gonna go ’til we can’t go no more,” she remembers.
Oompa recorded her latest music in a home studio she set up during the pandemic, where she honed her improvisational style. “I free-styled it four bars and free-styled it another four bars and wrote another five bars, and this was a process of letting go and not being so meticulous and feeling what it means to embody this place I’m in,” she says. “The process was a lot of freestyle, a lot of carelessness in the way that I needed.”
She’s currently working on several music videos as well as a short film to accompany her album. Outside of her music, she’s an activist for LGBTQ+ rights and currently serves on the leadership council for The Record Co, which provides affordable workspaces for emerging musicians in Boston, particularly queer artists and artists of color. The organization is “trying to understand the barriers between music makers and their music,” she says. “One of the biggest things we’d talked about was how hard it is to make music in the first place.”
In her own musical journey, Oompa has surmounted obstacles by being true to herself and following her passions. She began by rewriting Eve and Left Eye lyrics in her journal and rapping them, then joined rap battles in middle school, got into spoken word poetry in high school, and started performing on stage in college. “I was so afraid to perform, but I was like, I’ve got such a burning passion for it,” she remembers. She met some friends who help her put out her first mixtape and has continued to chase whatever she feels excited about – in true Lebron form.
Follow Oompa on Instagram for ongoing updates.