As Chicago artists continue to adjust to the circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Hypno Carlito is working on his good karma. By his account, the 31-year-old rapper has fed more than 400 families across the South and West sides of Chicago through his nonprofit, Legendary Intent Youth Services, since August. On Oct. 3, crowds of people gathered in the parking lot of Kells Park Community Council center and filled their bags with premium meats, produce and desserts spread across a large table. 

Born Robert Roger Amparan, Hypno Carlito came up with the idea for a food drive after hearing about organizations that collected food from grocery stores. He inquired about how he could purchase a food truck to give back to hungry families in food deserts which, according to him, was $1,500 for one truck filled top to bottom. Now, he’s hosting his food drives monthly, with the next one coming up on Nov. 7. 

“I want to go to different places in the hood and just give out food ‘cause I know it’s so many situations of people not having nothing to eat,” he shared during our phone interview on Oct. 1. He was in Florida to record and, at the time, out getting his dog groomed at PETCO. 

“That’s the worst feeling, looking at your children and your child can’t eat but they’re hungry,” he continued. “Sometimes it gets hard and it’s a pandemic right now.”

Ultimately, he wants to expand Legendary Intent Youth Services into youth outreach and after-school programs for kids, providing alternatives to hanging out in the streets. He’s thinking about efforts including a facility with a basketball court, Big Brother/Big Sister programs and fields trips. It’s the type of program he wishes he had as a kid growing up out West that he says would have made his life a lot different.

“It would have been a lot different because I wouldn’t have had no time for the streets. So that’s really why I wanted to create that,” Hypno explained. “These kids, that’s the only thing they go to. If they’re not in the house playing video games, they go to the streets. Even if they’re just out with their friends, they’re in the streets, and right now the streets are just not a safe place. Not even downtown.”

Despite being on his own since childhood, Hypno still found a pathway to success and acclaim on his own terms as an independent artist/songwriter. Currently, he’s gearing up to drop his forthcoming Good Karma 2 on Nov. 6.

Since writing “Pray 4 My City,” the Oscar-nominated song and lead single from Spike Lee’s polarizing 2015 film “Chi-Raq,” and his 2017 project Sorry For The Hate, and 2019’s Good Karma was Hypno stepping back into rap after a brief hiatus.

Good Karma was just one of those situations where I was independent and I was going through a lot of stuff, getting everything together and reinventing myself as an artist because I wasn’t dropping much music before that,” Hypno explained. “I needed to get back in the groove and show the fans that good music is still alive.”

The “New Chicago” rapper admits he got bored with the redundant cycle of fans listening to his new drops for a few days, moving on, and soon asking him to drop more music. Instead, he’d rather drop high quality projects that will last for a long time.

“It’s so much music that I wanted to [put] on Good Karma that I couldn’t add the first time. [Lil] Durk gave me the idea of doing a deluxe and dropping more music,” said Hypno. So he’s planning to flood his fans with new music, most of which is coming on Good Karma 2

“I’m quality over quantity. I want everything to make sense, I want everything to look right, and it has to be able to compete,” he said.

Although he didn’t plan to put out any music this year, Hypno released “MOOSE,” the somber tribute to his late childhood best friend, Kevin “Moose” Layeni, who died from a failed heart transplant in March. Since then, the track became one of his biggest inspirations.

“Moose was my homie, that was my best friend. He one of them niggas that kept it real no matter what. He ain’t have no filter. Even with Good Karma, with me being independent, he was helping me get it together, like let’s get this photoshoot together, let’s get these videos together, let’s make sure you’re in the studio. That one really hit home,” Hypno said.

Long before Hypno migrated to 63rd and Damon on the South Side, he grew up in K-Town on Keystone and Thomas on the West Side. Having to fend for himself, he floated across the city and the suburbs. His mother and stepfather passed away when he was 5 and 12 years old respectively, and he did not know his biological father, who died this past August from heart failure, until he was 21 years old.

In 2014, rapper and collaborator Lil Varney introduced Hypno to Durk and the OTF camp. Despite Hypno being a member of the Gangster Disciples, the chief opponent of the Black Disciples which make up OTF, Durk and Hypno would develop an organic friendship. They’ve collaborated and worked together at every phase of Lil Durk’s career to this very day.

“When I first met Durk, he already had a little buzz going on with ‘L’s Anthem’. I didn’t want anything from him, we were just cool,” Hypno said. “I ain’t never asked him for anything and he noticed that. And he just started rocking with me genuinely. It was always a brotherly bond. We never had a business relationship, we have a brother relationship.”

As he developed relationships with other core OTF members, including Lil Reese, Chief Keef and the late Fredo Santana, Hypno would eventually be a go-to for collaborations and musical consultations, based on his strong knack for melodies. He soberly recalled when in January, Fredo tapped him to be an executive producer for a future mixtape and to help him with his music.

Photo courtesy of Hypno Carlito.

Sadly, the two didn’t get a chance to finish the tape. Fredo died from an intense seizure on Jan. 19, 2018, the next night after the two were working together in the studio. 

When it comes to death, Hypno’s experiences are sadly no different than every other Chicago artist. This year, the city is battling two crises simultaneously: more than 5,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Cook County, and as of Oct. 18, according to data from the Chicago Tribune, 631 people have been killed from gun violence, surpassing last year’s 585 homicides. Among the fallen was GBE/OTF affiliate Tray Savage, who was violently killed in June.

“I been around Savage a lot of times and every time we locked in in the studio, chilled and smoked, he always was cool so it kinda blew me…he was a good nigga. When I heard about it, it was a messed-up situation. I know his family and I knew they were mourning over that man,” he said somberly. 

With murder and violence being a constant part of his life since childhood, he realized staying focused, prayed up, and positive was the only way for him to survive. And as he realized his responsibility as a Chicago rapper to the youth, it fueled his desire to want to help people. 

“Music and my kids saved my life. I’m still in my gang and still who I am, but I am trying to grind and focus and help people. Everything I do is for that good karma. I really do believe what goes around comes around and if you do right by people, right ‘gon be done by you,” said Hypno.

is a freelance writer for The TRiiBE.