Mr. Hooper gets serious about his rap career after 25 years
Cassettes tapes Cassette tapes were a vital part of rapper Virgil J. Hooper’s career 25 years ago. He was out on the street hocking tapes to anyone willing to give him the time of day. To make the sale, he’d carry along a Walkman and copies of his album queued up to different parts, ready to give a customized sample to would-be buyers.
“If they said they liked R&B—they don’t really like rap, well I never sang, but I’d choose the tape that had the closest thing to R&B and put it in the cassette player and say, ’Well, check this out, you might be interested,’” says Hooper, who now raps under the name Mr. Hooper. Until 2014, he was known as Crazy Ballhead.
He laughs, thinking about the shameless hustle of his younger self. “It’s time to get back to that,” he adds.
To get there, his new album Auto Reverse is his first in 22 years to get pressed on cassette. Even on the CD version of the album, the cover is an image of a cassette tape. It’s a tribute to that relentless drive of his younger years.
“When I first started, I had crazy hustle. I still have it, but not like I did back then,” Hooper says. “I was inspired by getting back to that passion, that push, which in all honesty never left, it’s just that I divided so much of myself.”
His time isn’t divided any longer. As of March this year, Hooper no longer works a 9-5 job. Now he’s a full-time artist. That includes touring, recording other artists and producing music videos, but most importantly, writing and releasing his own music.
“I’ve always given my 9-to-5s the best of me, but in the end that was always in support of someone else’s dreams,” Hooper says. “It’s time to jump both feet into my dreams. This is the first time in my life that 100 percent of my focus is on my music career.”
When he first went full-time as an artist, he was working on a longer concept album, but an opportunity came up to do some touring on the West Coast. To arrive with a new release in hand, he switched gears. He wrote and recorded Auto Reverse just in time for his tour.
Keeping with the record’s theme, Hooper went old school with the production of the tracks: It’s sample-based. Even some of Hooper’s flow gets back to that ’80s and ’90s style of delivery.
“I think my flow changes from track to track because I can rap any way I want. That’s the art of it,” Hooper says. “When I put the pen to the pad, I put it to the pad with purpose.”
Now that Hooper’s efforts have been reinvigorated, he can also spend some time getting his new name out there. Many folks in the scene know him as Crazy Ballhead, a name thrusted on him by his girlfriend after he shaved off his dreads. Now he’s got to let those folks know that he’s still making music.
Since Hooper is his actual name, there’s new significance there. Being Mr. Hooper is about thinking about his family again, and his potential legacy.
“As Crazy Ballhead I was like, man I got to make the dopest tracks. I still want that,” Hooper says. “Now, I did something as bold as calling myself my family’s name. How am I going to represent that? How am I going to be Mr. Hooper? And carry that into the future where it’s something that my family can be proud of?”