In Conversation: OneShotOnce Talks Growing Up in Hoboken and Putting Together His Roper Williams Produced Record Hatched Caviar

Hoboken can be a mean city. I for one will never forget seeing a block-long brawl break out at the 2011 Hoboken St Patrick’s Day parade, a day so infamous it led the city to cancel the parade all together for a dozen years. Those who call Hoboken home though know that underneath its gritty (and rapidly gentrifying) exterior is a community that has fostered artistic creativity for decades. Hoboken is famously the birthplace of old blue-eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, with his first group even being named The Hoboken Four. The city later saw an artistic boom in the 80s and 90s as the home to famous punk music venue Maxwell’s, a club so good that New Yorker magazine named it the best music venue in NY in the early 90s despite Maxwell’s being in New Jersey. The past half decade or so has seen the underground NJ rap scene in a period of genuine ascendance. That is thanks at least in part to a community of artists who love coalescing at Hoboken-born production duo Roper William’s infamous studio, where rappers like AKAI SOLO and Fatboi Sharif and fellow producers like DriveBy would hang out, shoot the shit, and make tracks on the fly. Long before Xavier of Roper Williams became a local tastemaker however he was just a kid in Hoboken, making music with his friend OneShotOnce. 

OneShotOnce grew up in a Puetro Rican household in downtown Hoboken, raised on the sounds of Spanish musicians like Joe Arroyo and Frankie Ruiz. Him and Roper connected as high schoolers in Hoboken, a friendship born out of a mutual love of all things hip hop. They even dropped a tape together all the way back in 2012, a OSO rapped and Roper produced tape named Once in a Blue. OneShotOnce had to take some time off from music as he dealt with the so-called American justice system which had him on probation for the better part of seven years, but the man has been rapping with the aforementioned ascendant NJ rap cohort since the pandemic started and clearly sounds elated to be on the mic once again. While OSO shined on his recent EPs 4WD and Apple Juice, his Roper Williams produced album Hatched Caviar feels like a thesis statement. Starting with “Silver Mercedes” OSO shows a dexterity on the mic, being able to pack as many or as few syllables into a bar as he wants, flipping from densely to sparsely packed bars without losing any sense of rhythm. OSO particularly shines when he has another rapper to play off of. On “Evelyn” OneShotOnce feels like the Dr. Jekyll to Fatboi Sharif’s Mr. Hyde; on “Goldfish” OSO brings an east coast punch that finds harmony with Vel Nine’s smoked out west coast vibe. OSO brings the shittalk in spades but proves to be just as strong as a storyteller, channeling Action Bronson’s “Hookers at the Point” on the Ransom assisted “Voices”. Roper unsurprisingly kills every beat on the tape including the moodsetting instrumental interludes, with every sample used making you think of the thousands of record crates they dug through to find it. 

Hatched Caviar has an exuberance to it. You can imagine these longtime friends spending long nights smoking and catching up as they each try and one up the other track after track. It is the auditory equivalent of a fat sandwich from my favorite Hoboken deli Fiore’s: densely packed and made with love by a couple of people who don’t mind telling you to go fuck yourself if you need to hear it. We had the chance to ask OneShotOnce a couple questions about growing up in Hoboken, his favorite rappers coming out of New Jersey right now, and the process of putting together Hatched Caviar.

GSC: What is your name? What is your artistry of choice?

ONESHOTONCE: My name is OneShotOnce and my artistry of choice is hip-hop.

GSC: What are your earliest music memories? Who was playing music around the house and what were they playing?

OSO: Spanish music for sure. Nothing but old school stuff like Joe Arroyo, Oscar De Leon, Hector Lavoe and Frankie Ruiz, who actually used to visit the block often back in the day when we had a social club in the basement of my building at the time. I was raised by my grandmother and great grandparents who were all born and raised straight from Puerto Rico, as were a lot of other people on the block at the time, so there was always salsa and merengue playing.

GSC: What first got you into rap music? Who were the rappers growing up who meant the most to you?

OSO: My earliest memories was being in the backseat of my Mom’s car while she played Wu-Tang, Nas and the Fugees, but when I was around twelve my cousin Frank introduced me to Big L & Big Pun. Even though I was introduced to them after their passing those guys were like gods to me at one point, rest in peace to both.

GSC: What was it like growing up in Hoboken? How did the city shape you both as a person and an artist?

OSO: Growing up Hoboken used to be a slum, at one point nobody wanted to be caught dead there. Lots of fights, bars, drugs and even more drug users but it was a tight community where everybody knew everybody. The heavy gentrification shaped me as a person because I learned about the ways of the world at a young age. It shaped me as an artist from the adventures of drug dealing, skating and doing graffiti so it sets up for good stories to tell.

GSC: What was the local music scene like in Hoboken? Were there local rappers or events that inspired you?

OSO: The hip hop scene was basically non-existent as far as events or shows. The only place that was letting it fly here and there was a spot called Maxwell’s uptown that had a music venue in the back. It was low-key a legendary spot though, bands like Nirvana, Oasis, and R.E.M had some shows there earlier in their careers, and being a fan of Nirvana that certainly inspired me a bit.

GSC: What are your favorite places in Hoboken? Whether they be places to eat, to drink, to perform music, record music, or whatever.

OSO: All food lol. My favorite spots to eat include but are not limited to Piccolos Cheesesteaks, M & P Biancamano, Leo’s Grandevous, Giovanni’s Pizza, Precious Chinese, & Sri Thai to name a few.

GSC: Did you find yourself taking the PATH across the Hudson to NYC often growing up? Any favorite NYC memories?

OSO: Absolutely, my whole life actually. I was born in what’s now known as Dumbo, Brooklyn. Beyond that I used to go to the Garden all the time for Knicks games and other sporting events. My favorite memories are probably back in high-school when we used to cut class to go to Yankee games and get cheap outfield bleacher seats with beers and blunts.

GSC: Was 4WD your first foray into rapping? If not, what was the first time you recorded?

OSO: Nah I had some light experimental projects in the past i ended up taking down. I didnt feel like they were projects I took seriously enough and also I was still finding my sound. 4WD I would say was my official introduction to how I want my music to sound.

GSC: How did you first connect with Driveby? How did you know you wanted to record a tape together?

OSO: Driveby is actually my cousin. We worked on our crafts separately for many years and started working together in 2019. Once the pandemic hit in 2020 we had a lot more time on our hands and decided to start finally putting some projects together. He’s beats are next level.

GSC: Similarly how did you connect with Roper Williams and when did you know you wanted to make music together?

OSO: We’ve been friends since about ’09, we have some real history. Me and Roper’s first album ever was with each other back in 2012 in fact, it was called Once in a Blue. We released it on a random hip-hop website at the time, they kept it up for a few years then took it down.

We parted ways for a bit after that project because I had gotten into some trouble. I was dealing with court and probation for about seven years, and while I was dealing with so much real life shit I didn’t have as much inspiration to work on or release any music. I always wrote though. Once I was done with probation I reached out to Roper and we basically just picked up where we left off.

GSC: Do any songs in particular stand out listening back on your 2021 EP 4WD? How does it sound a few years later? 

OSO: I really enjoy the intro “Christopher Lloyd“. Between the sample of the Mercedes G-Wagon getting started up in the beginning and the beat transition later towards the end it reminds me of an intro to a movie or something. Overall I think the tape still sounds great. I forgot I had the final masters CD in my car and listened back to it recently, it’s a great tape to drive to which was kind of the idea behind it.

GSC: You then put out Enduro where Driveby and Roper Williams each split production duties and APPLE JUICE which was fully helmed by Roper. What were your goals with each of these tapes? 

OSO: Enduro is actually a prequel to 4WD, they are part of a series with others to be added soon enough. And APPLE JUICE was also a prerequisite to Hatched Caviar and was also an opportunity we used to announce we had a whole project together. 

GSC: Was there anything you learned from working with Roper on APPLE JUICE that you wanted to bring into HATCHED CAVIAR? What were your goals for HATCHED CAVIAR?

OSO: Yea for sure, even though APPLE JUICE was made after HATCHED CAVIAR I learned easier ways for us to get tracks done faster, especially when our schedules become difficult. My goals for HATCHED was to cultivate a timeless piece of art while also opening the door to do many more like it in the future bringing you further into the Castle Point universe.

GSC: “Silver Mercedes” is a great tone setter for this record. How did you know it was the right lead off track?

OSO: I love a good intro. The second I was done recording that track I knew it had to be the opening, it just felt right. Kept thinking how wild it would be to press play and that was the first thing you heard bringing you in for the rest of the ride.

GSC: “Evlyn” was an early favorite from the tape. What is the story behind that track? How did you know you needed Fatboi Sharif to hop on that one?

OSO: “Evlyn” was made on the spot, completely unplanned, on Roper’s Birthday during the pandemic. A few of us were in the studio having drinks to celebrate Roper’s born day while he was in the cut working on beats (dude is always working). But then he chopped up some wild shit he wanted to show all of us immediately and it was a wrap after that. The whole thing was mad fun and super organic. 

GSC: “Goldfish” featuring Vel Nine was another definite stand out, you both kill your verses. How did that track come about? What was it like working with her?

OSO: Another good organic situation. Roper sent over that beat and I got to it quick. I was originally going to write a second verse to it but it didn’t feel right. Listening back, the track made me feel like I was in Cali for some reason and then it clicked. Who better than Vel Nine to wreck shit and represent. We weren’t together when the track was made but I reached out, she answered and also loved the track and sent back her verse asap. 

GSC: What is your favorite track from the record outside of the ones mentioned?

OSO: I don’t know why but “Manu” always stands out the most to me. That beat is amazing and I like how the chorus is chanting and manifesting at the same time. Like don’t play wit me you never know who I could be tomorrow. 

GSC: The New Jersey rap scene and music scene in general has some great momentum right now. Why do you think so many amazing musicians come out of New Jersey?

OSO: I think it’s a mixture of the differences in environments and also the fact that Jersey is right next to NYC hip-hop mecca. We get left out of the conversation a lot so I feel we have no choice but to go harder. 

GSC: Who are some of your favorite rappers on the rise who more people need to be checking out, both in and out of NJ?

OSO: For sure Fatboi Sharif. Don’t ever sleep on that man, he always bringing something wild to the table. 89 the Brainchild is another super creative individual you never know what he gonna pull out the bag. And Freddy Stone the way he be super outta pocket displays that Jersey attitude heavy.

GSC: What is something outside of music that brings you joy that people might not know about?

OSO: My daughter always brings me joy. She’s an amazing kid that’s becoming a beautiful young woman. As far as hobbies outside of music i really enjoy going up to the countryside to camp and do the wilderness thing. With that also comes cooking, I don’t think I’m a pro or nothing but I can put together a bunch of fresh recipes from memory. I am also big into cars. My mother and my step father have been auto mechanics for as long as I can remember. When I was around them I learned a few things and grew to love cars just as much as they do.

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