Topaz Jones is a loud dispatch from a soft signal.
Take a look at the twenty-four year old’s lanky frame and yard-long dreads, and you might draw comparisons before you’ve heard a track. The adventurous production and everyman raps contained on his two independent LPs, “The Honeymoon Suite” and “Arcade,” are knotty and funky, but also funny; with all comic hubris of Kanye West in his Newark days. In the sprawling landscape of independent, unsigned rap, Jones has created his own island of infectious funk and quick-witted wordplay, a one-man band groomed on Smack DVDs, piano chords, and Outkast.
Jones was born in Montclair, New Jersey, living between minimansions owned by Jason Kidd and Steven Colbert and the blacker, less affluent South End. He started a boyband in his kindergarten class and his first concert was James Brown in Asbury Park, at seven. His mother was a doctor and his father was a musician who’d played in multiple bands (including the influential funk group Slave). Topaz had seen the peaks and valleys of the industry firsthand throughout childhood—undeterred, he charged into music in high school with a D.I.Y ethic and a copy of GarageBand. He would rent art galleries around the city to throw small shows, and his self-released songs started getting picked up on influential MP3 blogs. In 2011, he moved to the East Village, and bounced around friend’s pads between Manhattan and Brooklyn, sometimes five to three-bedrooms, while studying music and etching out his own ideas. He worked odd jobs between school and studio sessions, folding burritos at Dos Toros and clothes at Gentry, in Williamsburg. “The Honeymoon Suite,” his first album, arrived in 2014, and got him enough tour spots with bigger acts like Big Sean and Ty Dolla Sign to make rent. “Arcade,” from last year, tugged fans closer in; in a warm review, Pitchfork called the album “affecting” and “the work of an empathetic writer,” praising its moments of autobiography about family, girls, school, and everyday life, while NPR observed it "would make Bootsy Collins beam with pride." Recent records from D’Angelo, Pharrell, and Kendrick Lamar have only emboldened Jones’s fascination with live instrumentation and reinforced his love for soul and funk textures: he is currently preparing new music for release in early 2018.