Topaz Jones’ ‘Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma’ is the Perfect Confluence of Funk & Hip-Hop
Evan Dale // April 29, 2021
A refined, timeless confluence of 70’s funk and modern hip-hop drives the expansive direction of Topaz Jones’ new album, Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma. The album, that’s auditory aesthetic bleeds crystal clear of its influence when paired with the mirroring visual aesthetics of its accompanying Sundance award winning short film directed by Jones himself and directing duo, Rubberband, is the first release since 2018, and the culmination of years of work and months of single drops, from the New Jersey rapper and all-around creative. Through last week’s release, he’s reintroduced himself as one of the most intriguing and broadly talented names anywhere in hip-hop, or frankly, anywhere in music and music’s crossroads with the rest of culture at large.
Riding the rails of the same expansive creative and social tenets that pave the direction of the very personal, immersive film, the Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma album, too, feels pulled firmly from the rangy influence that Jones’ upbringing belayed on him both personally and creatively. Through that pointedly personal approach, and yet through what that approach means for Jones’ ability to also connect to so many other young creatives and viewers and listeners of color, it emerges as a bridge from Topaz Jones’ earliest days to his current ones; a bridge, too, crossing and interweaving the generations of decidedly Black music that soundtracked the moments of his – and that of others – family-oriented upbringing turned into clips in his short film; a bridge finally culminating at the core of its creative inception where Jones’ current existence as a Sundance award-winning director and acclaimed stylistically meandering musical artist allowed the creation of the project in the first place. And across every one of the lanes from which he draws inspiration, Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma thrives as an exploration of his roots, and the blooming, artful future that Jones himself is bound to inspire at a stylistic crossroads.
Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma, merely by its aesthetic and epochal ubiquity and ultimate uniqueness, feels nothing of not autobiographical, yet broadly applicable to the lives of anyone watching or listening. And once a listener has seen the short film, (which if you haven’t please do so right now), that fact feels even more certain. But even so, the album – removed from the film – still feels unendingly personal. It’s a coming of age tale born from Topaz Jones’ own experiences, and thus couldn’t have ever been anything but the silky funk-rap transcendence that it is. Such are simply the sounds he seems to know – the sounds he was raised on – and the rest of his stylistic arsenal – from the audio to the visual to their confluence in this project – coincide effortlessly.
From the beginning, Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma is a dynamic tour de lyrical force for Topaz Jones, who has been an established poetic rapper since he first appeared on the scene in 2014. 2016 standout, Tropicana, proved he could craft a hit. A series of A-Side / B-Side singles in 2018 affirmed that he could exhibit the rangy nuance of his one-of-a-kind sound. And Don’t Go Tellin Your Momma is a culminative reintroduction to Topaz Jones’ truest self – one that tightropes the curios between the 70’s funk he grew up on by way of his musician father; the social understanding and activism he learned from his Harvard doctorate mother; the hip-hop he seemed to have discover and reinvent all his own.
Through 13 tracks, Topaz Jones explores the same bookending pillars of his range, playfully meandering in the funk-rap grey area spectrum at the always differing, yet always downright addicting ratios of a musical alchemist. And yet, through the rangy zigzagging, there a couple constants: analogue instrumentation inspired by the 70’s funk he grew up on, and a brash knack for lyricism and flow that bathe Jones in the light of one of our moment’s most prized poetic rappers. Bringing to mind a relatable sonic texture from Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals, or Kendrick Lamar à la To Pimp A Butterfly, or Smino with blkswn, the smooth and timeless confluence of funk and hip-hop Jones delivers throughout the 40-minute course of Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma will, too, find its way into the timeless annals of albums that know no epochal or stylistic boundary.
Instead, Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma emerges as both a hip-hop album for fans of lyrical prowess (D.O.A.) and for listeners simply looking for something to cruise to with the windows down (Sourbelts). It also emerges as a funk album for fans of the Golden Era (Baba 70’s), or for fans of funk and Neo-Soul’s reinvention in the modern light (Amphetamines). And yet, each and every track is really a microcosm composition of the entire breadth of sounds Jones is able to explore with the album at large. And for that, Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma is at once a compositional masterclass on stylistic inadehrence and practiced refinement of aesthetic. More than anything, just like its accompanying short film, Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma is a personal, immersive, relatable exposé of Topaz Jones’ creative tenets, and how those very building blocks of who he is as a person and an artist, are so very able to attach themselves to listeners and viewers.
Just in time for Summer, it’s also fit to be the sunshine anthem.