Local Sounds 2k12: Topaz Jones

Topaz Jones isn’t interested in the easy A. “I like to challenge myself,” says the Tisch sophomore. “That’s what I do.” Though Jones is a student at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music, he’s just as likely to ruminate on concepts from his Games Theory class as he is to discuss his music courses. That’s not to say he was always the best student, though. “In eighth grade I got put on time out for talking in class or some shit,” remembers Jones, “and the other thing you can do there is sit there and write. So I just started writing raps.” Fast forward a few years, Topaz Jones has emerged as one of the university’s most talented artists. Sometimes, delinquency pays off.

Though Jones has an affinity for challenge, music and academics seem to come naturally to him. This might have something to do with his genealogy. A native of Monclair, NJ, Jones’s mother is a Harvard graduate and his father, Curt Jones, played in the legendary funk group Slave during the late seventies before leaving to start Aurra. He began imitating the music of his father in the first grade, but by high school had evolved his interests and become serious about a career in rap. Jones say he might have skipped college to do music if it wasn’t for his mother. “She fought really hard to get into Harvard at a time when not a lot of black people were getting into Harvard, so it was an inspiration for me.”

As a teenager, Jones and his friends began collaborating on music and eventually joined forces with New Jersey based Tastemakers NJ crew, originally started as clothing brand by fellow New Jersey native Phil Meyer that came to double as an outlet for the music of Jones and his friends and collaborators Thelonious Martin, Volition, and $tan Ros$. Jones envisages the brand as “putting a different spin on nineties ideals,” less predicated on trends and more invested in “people finding their own wacky style that’s uniquely them.”

It’s a philosophy that demonstrates itself across Hello My Name Is…, Jones’ standout 2011 debut mixtape. An adventurous and ambitious sixty minutes of spirited boom bap, Hello is an exuberant introduction to the artist that finds the MC sporting an array of stylistic hats, and having a lot of fun in all of them. Jones assists in the production, but the lion’s share was produced by long-time friend and fellow rising star Thelonious Martin. Though there’s a palpable abundance of ideas present, Jones said it took him longer than he first expected. “I was trying to make the perfect mixtape,” says Jones, “Like if an artist wanted to come out right now and become my favorite artist, what would they have to put out? I tried to formulate that and I wound up restarting the process three or four times.”

So it comes as no surprise that Jones has been hard at work on the follow-up since it came out. Although his next release will also be free, he considers it more of an album. There’s no date set for release, but Jones says he’s expanding his collaborations, including more features on the upcoming record as well as more videos in conjunction with Simon Davis, who directed videos for “Study Hall” and “Shockamuni” off of Hello. 

You can download Hello My Name Is… here and check out the rest of Tastemakers NJ’s music offerings at their website. For more Topaz, check out his Tumblr.

Topaz will be performing with other Local Sounds artists at the Local Sounds 2k12 release party at Muchmore’s on December 13. Stay tuned for more details regarding this soon-to-be legendary event.

[Photo courtesy of Topaz Jones]

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