Topaz Jack is one of those artists who act as a weather vein for which way the rap winds are blowing these days. What I mean by that is that we know where rap, hip-hop, and the various urban music forms come from, we know what those past music traditions and records sound like, But Concept Art is nothing less than a signpost to where they are going and what they might sound like in the future.

So it sits at the cutting edge of rap music and dreams openly of what rap might become. And it is an intriguing place, one that is loosely connected to what has gone before via the same deft and dexterous wordplay, sometimes the same urban beats, the same urges, and urgency. But the most intriguing inclusions here define where it is heading. The ambient and often ambiguous electronica, the beguiling soundscapes, the strange, meandering music that wanders and weaves in, around, and behind the lyrics.

It makes for a beautiful series of opposites that prove attractive. In the past, such music forms have primarily been abrasive, bombastic, and in-your-face. And while Topaz Jack can deliver those traditional vocal salvos, it is often tempered by these more considered, more interesting sounds that float, flutter, and flit by.

Moonwalker is the perfect example of this, a confident and strident vocal dancing over a soft, soothing, and soulful electronic landscape; the contrast between the street-wise lyrics and the otherworldly musical vehicle working in unison is inspired. Similarly, Soul Searching is powerful and poignant in its lyrical intent but again swathed in gorgeous drifts of music, which is less heard and more absorbed by some form of osmosis.

The Ticks of BrokenClocks is odd and almost oriental in its musical setup and wanders along in a wilfully off-kilter sort of way, the vocal pattern tethering the music as much as the wandering groove that creates the energy. It’s as if the two are fighting for control of the song, which creates tremendous tension.

The album rounds off with The King of Gods, a track perhaps more in keeping with the traditional rap sound but still laced with the adventurousness and experimentation that marks this album and wonderfully self-deprecating and world-weary.

If you want to know where rap goes next, then this is as good a place as any to start your research. You can certainly see where Topaz Jack comes from and what music he uses as reference points. But where he is going is the much more exciting proposition.

Previous articleCall To Arms – Vernons Future (reviewed by Dave Franklin)
Next articleToronto power trio ON releases new single Blackmail ahead of eponymous album
Musician, scribbler, historian, gnostic, seeker of enlightenment, asker of the wrong questions, delver into the lost archives, fugitive from the law of averages, blogger, quantum spanner, left footed traveller, music journalist, zenarchist, freelance writer, reviewer and gemini. People have woken up to worse.

Leave a Reply