Feature Stories

Topic, Dallas’ Prodigal Emcee, Talks About Oakland, Working with Flying Lotus and These Things, Will Happen

Roderick Pullum
Topic is now a Bay Area resident.
Hip-hop artist Topic solidified himself as one of the best lyricists and stage performers in Dallas. His transparency about the ups and downs within his personal life and an infectious sense of humor endeared him to fans.

Topic has survived several career setbacks, including the highly publicized theft of a hard drive that contained several years of unreleased music. The loss of his recordings was followed by the death of his friend and keyboardist, Jordan “JoJo” Walker, the next month.

In March 2017, Topic moved to Oakland, California, where he’s been doing more than enjoying good weather and legal cannabis. Luck has done a 180, and good fortune is now a prevalent theme in Topic’s career. This is good news for fans because they’ll soon be able to hear his long-awaited album.

“Originally, the whole project was called These Things, Will Happen. We broke it up in two parts so I don’t go insane,” Topic says. “We’ve literally been working on this Star Wars-sounding album four years now. You can only listen to the same songs and sounds for so long before you start going crazy.”

Topic’s project will be presented in two installments. Part one, These Things, is set to be released in September.

“It’s gonna be super climactic. It’s gonna cut you off when it’s at the best part, and people are gonna be like, 'Aw, man, where’s part two?' I’ll be sitting back like yes, yes it’s all going according to plan,” he says in an evil mad scientist voice. “I still want for people to buy CDs instead of streaming everything. I’m the type of person that will throw some hidden stuff on the CD just to [give you an incentive to buy it].”

Now that Topic has been a Bay Area resident for more than a year, he’s had some time to size up the local creative community.

“The visual scene out here is super heavy," he says. "Everybody’s throwing up murals; everybody’s always going to live art shows and painting. I like it out here because vinyl and cassette tape culture are strong. People out here are for real about their beat tapes. They have cassette players, Sony Walkmans, all of that.

"I would say Dallas has a certain energy. A good handful of Dallas artists have good stage presence and give great live performances. Sometimes in Oakland, it’s rare to see great performers. Everyone is really talented but not everyone has their stage presence down pat yet.”

"I would say Dallas has a certain energy. A good handful of Dallas artists have good stage presence and give great live performances." – Topic

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One of the biggest highlights in Topic’s career was touring with Flying Lotus last year. This opportunity came about from a backstage meeting at the inaugural Fortress Fest, where Topic played Flying Lotus his music. He invited Topic to L.A., where the two recorded a song.

“I didn’t know what was going to happen at the time because everything went quiet for like two months [after we recorded the song]," Topic says. "Then I got a message from someone on his team telling me I inspired [Flying Lotus] to get back on his rap stuff and back into the hip-hop scene because he was doing a lot of movie scoring at the time."

Flying Lotus sent Topic the song they recorded then invited to him to the historic Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California, to perform.

“That was the craziest moment because I only had like $5," Topic recalls. "I had to hop a train to get there and all this other good stuff. I got there, and it was like 8,000 people sold out."

After the show, an invitation to perform in Austin led to the monthlong tour with Flying Lotus.

Creating music consumes much of Topic’s time in Oakland, as it did in Dallas. He doesn’t allot room in his schedule for much else. His obsessive nature has contributed to delays with releasing These Things, Will Happen. Topic believes acute attention to detail is necessary to achieve his vision for the project.

“I don’t stop doing music," he says. "When I get tired of a certain type of music, I just do a different style. If I wasn’t a perfectionist, I’d be like seven albums in by now. But I’ve been so obsessed with making sure this one is articulated properly. I’m making sure everything is right so people can understand the story. I’m making sure I have visuals to go with everything.

"I also want to be sure the storyline is empathetic enough to where you feel like you’ve been placed in different scenarios at the right time. I’m crafting a story; I’m creating an atmosphere. This isn’t a normal album — it’s a concept album that I’ve been tinkering with for four years, and I want you to feel every bit of that.”