Local rapper Ezra Hapner was putting so much pressure on himself to put out great music that he was having a hard time recording any music. To get over this, he told himself that he was only recording demos. His friend/producer Lalo sent him some chill, lo-fi beats, and Ezra took verses he’d written and recorded his vocals with only one take per song. On June 17, he released At Your Leisure, his first official EP.
“I’m a major perfectionist, which is why I have a hard time releasing,” Hapner says. “The amount of work I’ve done for the amount of music I have out is ridiculous. In some ways, it was kind of a challenge to myself to do things imperfectly and get them out. It was a challenge to not do 100 takes trying to get every syllable perfect—instead, put it out as more of a raw-feeling project.”
The EP captures his easy-going, thoughtful, and often offbeat personality, while also showing off his lyrical skills and flow. Combining those different elements, he comes across as very much a regular guy, someone you probably work with or have as a next-door neighbor. However, Hapner is very serious about rapping. He’s been doing it for as long as he can remember.
“In elementary school, I loved Run DMC and Kris Kross and Beastie Boys. I used to rap at school a lot. I was the rapper kid,” Hapner says. “I would rap book reports and school projects. I would always do talent shows with my friend.”
Hapner is also an excellent drummer and has been playing for as long as he’s been rapping. Currently, he plays in Anthony Arya’s band.
Due to the isolation and extra time on his hands after Covid lockdowns began last year, Hapner began releasing periodic videos of himself rapping bars in the camera. He also shot two videos. The first, “Pink Ladies” is lo-fi, and technically just a 40-second video loop on repeat (“I walk around with the Pink Lady, real crisp.”) “Shoestrings,” a chill song with a Spanish sounding guitar sample, has a more polished, professional video, which was shot over by the lighthouse on West Cliff.
“We were waking up at sunrise for this shoot just because of better lighting, so there weren’t a ton of people,” Hapner says. “It was a little weird at first, honestly, because I was sitting in the chair in the middle of that field while we were filming. I’m like trying to look natural and rap but all these people are walking along the sidewalk watching. After we were filming for a bit it felt fine. It’s fun.”
Hapner had only met the producer of At Your Leisure, Lalo (Eddy Benkhin) once. They hit it off and started collaborating via Zoom during the pandemic.
The past year has also been an interesting time for Hapner because he’s been studying at UCLA. But since everything is being done over Zoom, he’s been living in Santa Cruz the whole time. That’s also afforded him the time and energy to be able to work on his music. With things opening back up, he wants to get out and join the scene a little bit before he has to leave it. He plans to move to L.A. in September now that attending in-person classes is an option.
“I’ve never actually done a show for my music,” Hapner says. “I really want to set up a show and bring in some friends who play as openers and do it during the summer before everyone goes back to school. I think it would be a great time now because [I’m] forming a stronger connection with people who might like my music here, and then bring it to people wherever they go in the fall.”
For more info, check out: www.instagram.com/ezrahapner.