In 2016, local rapper -topic was preparing to leave Dallas for the bright lights and big cities of California when nearly all of his life’s work was stolen from him. A thief stole his laptop in late September during a show at Drugstore Cowboy in Deep Ellum.
Now he’s gearing up for his last show as a Dallas resident, after living here for all his life. But he’s not going quietly. “This is everything, to leave that impact in Dallas,” -topic tells the Observer. “You’ll feel this until I come back.”
His going away party will happen Thursday, March 23, at Trees. The show will feature local favorites like Blue, the Misfit and Sealion, as well as a few more surprises orchestrated by -topic.
It should cap an eventful time for the artist. Last August, he became the first musician to receive a grant from the Office of Cultural Affairs, which largely went toward the recording and editing of his third album, These Things Will Happen. The album has faced major setbacks since he started working on it several years ago.
The first domino to fall was the death of keyboardist Jordan “JoJo” Walker last year.
“For a long time I was the only person that understood this album ... and JoJo actually understood [it] off the top and came through and played so much magic, in one take, it was stupid,” -topic says. “I knew he understood it. We were getting close and that Tuesday while doing something for the grant … I found out JoJo passed away in a car accident with his girlfriend, and I had to reschedule that meeting for a later date.”
It was bittersweet to learn shortly thereafter that he had secured the grant.
“It’s always weird when you’re going through the worst possible circumstance at the worst possible moment but you also have one of the greatest days you ever went through happen on the other end, and you’re stuck dead in that neutral zone where you don’t know whether to do a heel click or cry,” he says.
But just a month later, the backpack containing the hard drive with all those recordings — including Walker's work and other work by -topic going back three years — was stolen.
“We went from about 65 percent of an album to 20,” -topic says. “Realistically we didn’t even want to start doing this again, like ‘Let’s just move on to something else,’ but we lost everything else so we really didn’t have anywhere to start.”
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After a successful GoFundMe campaign, -topic was able to recover a portion of his third album, including the piano section played by Walker. “We were right there a lot of the time, but somehow the momentum around us just hasn’t stopped, which I really appreciate,” he says.
Now -topic is moving to Oakland, California, to finish remaking the album. But it won’t be the last you see of him in Dallas. “[I’ll return to] work on some stuff, do a few shows, say what’s up [and] kiss a few babies,” he says.
-Topic nevertheless has very high expectations for this send-off show. “Either you’re going to bring this level or I’m going to ask you to get off stage; it’s going to be mayhem,” he says. “We’re all going to kick each other’s ass and it’s going to be the most amazing show the crowd has ever witnessed. And if it goes the way it needs to go and it sells out, I’m going to jump from the balcony, as I’ve always wanted to.”
The City of Dallas Presents: So-So Topic's Peace-Out Party, 8 p.m. Thursday, March 23, Trees, 2709 Elm St., $13, treesdallas.com.