Feature Stories

Dallas Rapper -Topic Sets His Sights on the West Coast

One of Dallas' most unique hip-hop artists and greatest live performers, -topic, is getting ready for Legendary Cake Jam 2.0, a follow-up to last year’s hip-hop party in Deep Ellum. His career is currently taking him in several different directions, most notably to the Pacific Coast. Sadly, it is unlikely that we will see a third installment of Cake Jam next summer, as that westward pull seems poised to whisk him away from his hometown.

Some have disputed the authenticity of his claim to leave Texas, and his plans are admittedly a little ways off yet. But –topic insists that he will only remain in Dallas until spring of 2016 at the latest, which is when he expects to have his next album ready. However, he admits that he may be able to have it completed by December and be gone before the end of the year. Without a set date, he also says that he could be leaving much sooner than that depending on “a few things on the table.”

One of those things pertains to the Sundance Film festival. In January, -topic attended the festival and performed at a private party. Of all the people he could have hit it off with, he references Larry King as “amazingly fly.” At the party, he also met with one of the organizers of the festival, who was so taken with his performance that he was interested in a short film. –topic quickly devised a plan for an animated film he already wrote based on a true story.

As a teenager living in Oak Cliff, -topic witnessed a SWAT team breaking into a house across the street from where he lived. The experience had a profound effect on him and he learned how to cope with life through his art by writing an early song called “Real Life.” The new short film is based on this childhood experience. If all goes according to plan, producing the film and getting it ready for Sundance next year could take -topic out of DFW in the very near future.

But that's not the only pull he feels for the Golden State; every time -topic visits L.A., there seems to be something new leading him that way. “There’s Dallas sound and there’s California sound,” he says. “And then there’s the thing that happens when you merge the two.” This is where he wants to get with his music. As he sees it, Dallas appreciates his hip-hop, which he greatly appreciates in turn. But in L.A. there are so many different scenes that it is easier for him to find people who appreciate his “weird side.”

When he leans more towards an experimental sound in Dallas, -topic just can’t seem to get it right, even with help from his friends. But in L.A. he has met producers who can help him get to the sound he is trying to achieve. –topic originally planned on a sequel to his Be Good & Do Well album. But in response to social issues currently going on in this country, he eventually realized the material no longer represented how he felt.

Citing Killer Mike as a major influence, -topic says the music he is currently working on addresses police brutality and the inability to protest in an organized manner. “If you’re going to protest you have to have a direction or something you are actually pushing for,” he says. He emphasizes that it is important for protestors to not only know what they want, but how they will get it. These new songs present his ideas for how this should work.

–topic also says the new material will address other issues that fascinate him. For example, he is amazed that Americans have cars, computers, and all sorts of other material possessions, but not necessarily essentials like clean water or healthcare. Curiously, -topic somehow plans to incorporate off-the-wall songs about junk food and trading in his smartphone for a flip phone into this album that mainly focuses on serious social issues.

The title for this upcoming release, which -topic describes as his attempt to really reach out to people, is These Things Will Happen. He says that a surprising amount of rock music will appear on this next release. There are already collaborations with Blue, The Misfit, Donny Domino, A.Dd+, and Bobby Sessions. After meeting Leon Bridges through social media and later performing on a bill with the rising star, the two became friends and fans of each other’s work. “That dude has a style of his own and it’s amazing,” –topic says. He says that Bridges will be featured on a track from the upcoming album called “Lead Me to Water” and also hints at other possible collaborations between the two.

But if all goes according to plan, -topic will relocate to L.A. before his next album sees the light of day. It could be sooner or it could be later, but he insists that it will happen. For now, we should enjoy seeing his unpredictable live performances while we can, with Cake Jam being a prime example.

“The first one was amazing,” he gushes. In addition to the performances inside, there were tacos, cakes, ice cream and a Nintendo 64 tournament in the back. But this year’s event will be even bigger. With two nights and several local acts on the bill, -topic is hoping to have a PlayStation 2 blowing up Tony Hawk on a projector for life-size game play. The event will also have custom cakes, a video booth and a few surprises.

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Jeremy Hallock