“A little neurotic. Not really patriotic. When it comes to religion, I’m just agnostic. But I just hit you with them supersonic phonics.”
Robert McPherson raps these lyrics in seconds. With simple beats of music in the background and a couple taps on his Android phone, words pop up and accelerate his songwriting ability.
This process is through McPherson’s up-and-coming app, Hypeman. The 22-year-old senior computer science major worked on this app for over a year and entered it in Montclair State University’s 2019 pitch contest. With business partner Anthony Russo, McPherson was able to invent and market this music creating app.
“I think everybody has a certain desire to create music. It’s so universal and allows anybody to really express themselves,” McPherson said. “With Hypeman, all you need is your voice and to listen.”
Hypeman is a freestyling, songwriting and music-sharing platform. It provides lyrics and rhymes at the touch of a button, as well as instrumentals. Users can record themselves freestyling and share it to their social media accounts. The purpose of the app is to allow users to focus on sticking to the music and stringing words together without having to come up with rhymes.
McPherson first thought of the idea hanging out in his apartment back in January 2018. While freestyling with friends, he wanted there to be an easier way to come up with and incorporate rhymes. Having already created desktop games and programs, McPherson decided to work on an app. After teaching himself a new system for Android development, the first Hypeman prototype in Java was born.
“Hypeman was me trying to learn how to freestyle and apply my writing skills [to] have the time to think about the words I’m going to use and string them together,” McPherson said. “Freestyling is more difficult in the sense that you need to multitask and think of the words on your own and fit them to the music and make the rhyme.”
McPherson has always admired writing, creating poetry before moving to music. He started writing raps when he came to college and realized other students were doing it as well.
“I saw how many people did music – in particular, hip-hop,” McPherson said. “It was appealing to me because they didn’t necessarily have formal musical training in instrument or vocals, but they’re still able to produce really impressive and fun art.”
McPherson never heard of the pitch contest before, but his girlfriend, Camila Piza, suggested he enter it. McPherson saw the contest as an opportunity to release and publish Hypeman.
“He had a really good product that was well-made and just needed a little push of confidence to believe in it himself,” Piza said. “So when I saw the emails advertising the competition, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.”
Piza helped with ideas for Hypeman, by drawing out the logo – though a friend created the actual graphic design – and suggesting expanding the app to include poetry and songwriting for users who are not fans of hip-hop.
“He’s extremely hardworking and dedicated,” Piza said about McPherson. “He puts in extensive hours into learning more and developing his ideas. He’s also very creative.”
Russo, a junior business administration major with a concentration in marketing, also wanted to enter the contest. Fortunately, he met McPherson and connected with him and his app idea through their mutual love of music and creating. While Russo’s musical background strays more toward the guitar, he understands the struggle for songwriting and found Hypeman to be helpful in that respect.
“I really enjoy the creation of [songwriting] and being able to create something and show it off to the world,” Russo said. “Hypeman just allows you to make the creative process a little bit easier.”
Russo wanted to enter the contest for experience in entrepreneurship. He took the entrepreneurial program course that led up to the competition and was inspired to make a business.
“It’s a great opportunity through the school,” Russo said. “You can win up to $50,000 for your business, and Montclair [State] is kind enough to not take any stake in your business and then offer the guidance for you along with it. They’re really just looking out for you and they want the students to succeed.”
Jason Frasca, the entrepreneurship instructor of the Feliciano School of Business, worked with Russo during the entrepreneurship program course. He met with the Hypeman creators and believes they will do well in their future business endeavors.
“They have a business model that appeals to a wide range of people,” Frasca said. “They seem to compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses and share a vision of what is possible. Add in determination, and I think they will do quite well.”
While McPherson focused more on the technical side of Hypeman, Russo handled the business and marketing campaign. He focused on Instagram marketing, posting sample videos and trying to direct people to use the app.
“Whether you’re trying to be a rapper, a songwriter or you’re trying to get better, expand your vocabulary, or if you’re just trying to have a good time,” McPherson said. “See what you can do with some freestyles.”
Both McPherson and Russo want users to become more confident in creating music and sharing it with others. They want to show how people do not need to be professional musicians in order to make music.
The pair made it to the semifinal round of the pitch contest which will be held the morning of Wednesday, May 8. Russo said he is nervous for the final results – which will be announced that Wednesday afternoon – but in a good way.
“I think it’s the nerves that are going to push us to strive to do the best that we possibly can to hopefully win it,” Russo said. “If not, it’s just a great experience anyway.”
“If you’re not so good and even if it sounds kind of funny, it really can get you better at freestyling and songwriting,” McPherson said. “I know it has for me.”