Sitting at the picnic table just steps away from the playground at Paradise Valley Park in Morgan Hill, a bright-eyed Hector Lopez Jr. shares the same carefree spirit as just about every 10-year-old boy.
However, Lopez Jr. has one extraordinary talent that sets him apart from other fourth-grade students at Paradise Valley Elementary School, even more so than his wide, bashful smile. The budding pop star recently released his debut album, titled, “Like Father, Like Son.”
“I always wanted to be on the show, ‘The Voice,’” said Lopez Jr., who by the looks of his album cover fits the part with a gray, ‘Pitbull’-esque suit and tie along with rock star shades, much different than his everyday digs. “But I’m not old enough (to be on the show).”
So with his father’s blessing – and shared passion for throwing it down in the studio and making rhymes – Lopez Jr. took a different road to stardom, working nearly a year on his 12-song debut CD.
“I was a little nervous at first, but, after the third song, I was good,” said Lopez Jr., who is known as “Two One” when he’s behind the mic. The name mirrors his father’s former rapper alias, “Mr. 21.”
And that’s not all the father and son share in common. While Hector Jr. is the spitting image of his dad, he also shares the same sports team loyalties, rooting for the San Jose Sharks, San Francisco Giants, Sacramento Kings and Cleveland Browns.
“He inspired me to come out of retirement,” said Hector Jr.’s father, who in his heyday produced 14 albums with friends from college, but none were as special than making cameos on three of his son’s songs.
Lopez Jr.’s hip-hop album – released on Cinco de Mayo with song titles such as “Doubted Me,” “Girl Like You” and “Someday” – has clean, profanity-free lyrics describing his relationship with his father; his favorite sports heroes like San Francisco Giants’ great Barry Bonds and boxing legend Julio Cesar Chavez; his dream of becoming the first Mexican American President of the United States; and, of course, instances of “puppy love”.
He even dedicated one song, called “Sierra’s Song,” to the unresolved case involving the disappearance of Morgan Hill teen Sierra LaMar.
His music, which was recorded, mixed and mastered by Tekpot, is now available on iTunes and CDbaby.com.
During a recent family vacation to Cancun, Mexico, the avid Morgan Hill PONY League baseball player filmed scenes for his first music video, “Mexican Vacation,” which will be released on YouTube once it’s completed.
Lopez Jr. also had his first autograph signing event May 4 at Anime 101 in the Vineyard Town Center in Morgan Hill, where he signed and sold “four or five” of his CDs to local fans.
“His interest (in making music) developed on his own,” said Hector Sr., whose son stumbled upon some of his old albums and later told him he wanted to make one of his own. So, Hector Sr. called up an old friend and got some studio time to see just if Hector Jr. has what it takes.
On the drive up to San Jose, they worked on a chorus for one song called “House party.” Once they got there, “he nailed it on his first take in the studio,” said the proud father. “It was amazing...he was just one with the music. The beat count and the rhythm came natural to him.”
A Michael Jackson fan, Lopez Jr. said he just tried to create “my own style” for the album.
“It was really cool,” he said, lighting up with excitement while talking about his time in the studio. “The coolest one was in San Jose, where we actually went in the booth.”
The second half of the album was made at an in-house studio in Oakland. In the interim, Lopez Jr. gave his classmates a sample of his talents when he performed, “Doubted Me,” at the Paradise Valley Elementary School talent show earlier this year.
“It was great. He got a really good response from the crowd,” said Lopez Sr. of his son’s live performance, “but there’s a lot of talented kids (at Paradise Valley).”
One of his younger classmates, 7-year-old brother Carlos Anthony Lopez, spoke on the album’s “Outro,” congratulating his older sibling on his accomplishment. Hector Jr. – who used to play the role of entertainer during family get-togethers – even had his cousin, Jomairi, sing the chorus on another song.
“He still doesn’t realize what a big accomplishment it is (to make an album),” said Hector Sr. “I just told him even if nothing more comes of it, he’ll always have this album. Nobody can take that away from you.”
Scott Forstner is a general assignment reporter who covers education and other community issues for the Morgan Hill Times. Reach him at (408) 847-7158 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org