Hook’s secret weapon is forward momentum. The California rapper’s music sways and thumps against our eardrums with the energy of a bedazzled bumper car. Her verses are uncouth and often hilarious, packed with deceptively clever turns of phrase: “She said she wanna meet around noon / But I don’t fuck with 12, so I told her two.”
Mic in hand, Hook channels enough force to knock The Hulk unconscious. But that ballistic energy exists in stark contrast to the 21-year-old Riverside, California resident who I spoke with earlier this month by phone.
“When I speak to people, I tend to beat around the bush,” Hook says. “I’m the complete opposite of that in my music. Music is an outlet for me. I feel like I can express myself fully.”
Hook’s latest project, Crashed My Car, is the perfect outlet. Partly inspired by her fear of car crashes, the project is peppered with sirens, crash audio, and breathy calls to police. The production—handled mostly by prolific Canadian producer NEDARB with assists from Captain Crunch and khroam—moves at the breakneck pace of a Cali high school house party on the verge of collapse. Hook’s gruff staccato manages to cut through all of it, filling the frenetic keys of “Onion” and the eerie synths of “Yes Man” with equal amounts of punk bravado.
Perhaps most impressive, Crashed My Car is the fourth project Hook has released in less than a year. Alongside NEDARB, she is already gearing up to drop a fifth—a mixtape entitled Pretty Bitty—in early March. Not bad for an artist who didn’t start professionally releasing music until early 2019.
Hook believes her brand of controlled chaos on Car is a jumping-off point for her developing sound. “I know I’m gonna keep getting better, so you can have it all,” she tells me confidently. “I want my fans to see me grow.”
Our conversation, edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: Your father was a rapper. What was it like growing up with someone so connected to the scene?
Hook: My mom and my dad were together until I was six. It was more so seeing him rap over instrumentals in the car or hearing his CDs. At [that] age, I didn’t know what the big picture was. My mom and my dad split shortly after, and my stepdad made music. He was in a boy R&B group, so I never left the music world. He was kinda like my manager when I was in my two girl groups with my sisters. He saw what was happening with B2K and Destiny’s Child back in the day and tried to apply it to us. He was a coach more than a dad in the best possible way. It made me who I am today.
Jump back. Were you in girl groups growing up?
Yeah! My first one was called Secret 3, with my older and younger sisters. After my older sister didn’t wanna do it anymore, me and my little sister were a duo called 2 Backwards—some Kriss Kross vibes type shit.
Did you learn anything from working with the groups that you’re applying to your music today?
Yes, of course. Compared to being solo, you depend on your partners more when you’re in a group. But now, even when it comes to my stage presence, having that kind of choreography in groups helped me. They also taught me how to stand out and keep pace with people; if you don’t stand out, you can fall behind. I took a lot from those groups with me into the music I make today.
When did you and NEDARB, your producer, first meet each other?
We met in either April or May of 2019. Ever since we linked up, it’s just been an automatic connection and work nonstop. We bounce ideas back and forth and move from one song to the next. We were recording at 4 a.m. this morning.
What was it like going from creating music on your own to working with someone like NEDARB so closely?
That’s a great question. When I first started making music on my own, I’d be writing songs in my car on my way to work. I couldn’t be in my crib because my grandparents would be asleep or something. I’d blast YouTube beats in my car, and I would write and then go to the studio in Burbank and work with this engineer named Thomas. Before that, my brothers had their studio in Reno Valley, and they’d ask me to record over there sometimes, too. Working with Ned has taken my ethic to a new level. It was like, “Okay, you can do this by yourself, but can you adapt?”
Talk to me about your writing process.
I try to be straight to the point. When I speak to people, I tend to beat around the bush. I’m the complete opposite of that in my music. I’ll go from “I think it’s kinda cool…” to “I don’t like it.” I get to do whatever the fuck I want on a song. Music is an outlet for me. I feel like I can express myself fully.
Where did the idea for Crashed My Car come from?
Low-key, that’s real life for me. Niggas be in the car, and if they don’t push the brake fast enough when we’re behind another car, I get tensed up. I used to have bad dreams of getting into car crashes, so I thought talking about it might make me feel better. I don’t have those dreams anymore, but I’m trying to face my fear. I force myself to look when people slip up on the brakes now. I thought making ten songs about the shit would help me get over it, but I guess not.
I panic a lot. When I realize I’m panicking, I try to tell myself I gotta level up and get over this. Bully was impulsive, and I feel like Crashed My Car is Bully on steroids. It’s way more adrenaline, but it’s also me finding a whole new sound and trying new things. Even the producers I worked with—Crunch, Ned, khroam—gave me enough room to play with my voice and experiment for adlibs. Thank God for them. With these songs, you either hate them, or you love them.
Crashed My Car sounds very modern but has undeniable ties to the past. The cover is a blatant homage to Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Return To The 36 Chambers.
I don’t remember when I had that epiphany, but I used ODB as a template for the cover. I haven’t tapped into all of his music, but I loved him as a character, and I loved his spirit. In documentaries I’ve seen, he’s just a person who doesn’t care. I love it when people live in their truth, and he’s the perfect example of that.
Also, his cadences and flows were just insane. I love when rappers mess up pronunciations or are overdramatic when they pronounce a word. I try to ride the pocket hella different. Even when I’m doing my ad libs, it’s like a mask to me.
Crashed My Car is the fourth project you’ve released in just over a year, and there’s a fifth coming soon. Do you feel pressure to keep up with the modern industry’s expectations, or do you prefer to create at this pace?
Honestly, I feel like I put out too much shit [laughs]. I know I’m gonna keep getting better, so you can have it all. I have a timeline; I don’t put out shit to have it out. I wanna drop one project for every season this year, so that’s two more projects aside from Pretty Bitty. You’ll get all of me, and then I’m gonna take a break for a bit. Once I’ve dropped every project, people can go back and listen to and appreciate all my old shit, and I’ll come back with something greater when I’m ready. I want my fans to see me grow.