If You Do One Thing This Friday, Tap Into Topaz Jones’ New Album & Short Film, 'Don't Go Tellin' Your Momma'
Evan Dale // April 21, 2021
If a course exists detailing the more widely ranged, enigmatic artistes anywhere in the boundless spectrums of modern art, music, and creativity, Topaz Jones is required study material. And yet, if that same course exists, Topaz Jones is not only the coursework and the professor, he’s also an author of a textbook that goes above and beyond in detailing the experience he knows. Born and raised in New Jersey and now a global citizen whose additions to the cultural mosaic of the past half-decade are nothing if not underrated, the rapper, vocalist, producer, director, and social activist is en route to releasing not only his own career’s defining moment, but a defining moment in the record of modern Black culture – culture largely to thank for the modern framework and continued experimentalism we’re all lucky to be experiencing across music, fashion, art, photography, and cinematography. On Friday, Topaz Jones - alongside directing duo, Rubberband and cinematographer, Chayse Irvin - will release their thesis on all of the intertwined lanes, and you’ll want to be paying attention.
Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma is an album – one that for all intents and purposes is a debut of sorts, or at least a renaissance moment, for Topaz Jones who released his proper debut musical collection, Arcade, in 2016. And truthfully, within that album – as a bonus track nonetheless – exists the reason why most reading this know him at all - for the next three days, anyway. Tropicana is still catchy. The downright addicting closing track was subsequently accompanied by an early feature on Berlin’s COLORS show and an introduction to Topaz Jones’ limelight. But few at the time would really know just how bright his actual light was bound to be. A prolific trio of A-Side / B-Side releases in 2018 not only blew wind into the sails of an explosive A-Side / B-Side trend allowing artists to put on exhibition dichotomies of range as single packages, it also proved that Topaz Jones was much more than the creative mind behind a bass-heavy Summer anthem (though that’s still true).
And then, relative radio silence. Until this year, he hadn’t released even another single. But when news that a new audiovisual project he was working on had worked its way into the hands of the Sundance Film Festival’s selections, and subsequently onto the top of the podium for Best Non-Fiction Short Film, the silence became nothing if not warranted. Topaz Jones wasn’t making an album or a feature film. He was bending the rules. And which rules was he bending? All of them, really. Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma is setting itself up as an audiovisual cohesion à la Beyoncé’s Lemonade or Solange’s When I Get Home where an album, perfectly succinct and self-entangled in its storyline and its stylistic makeup, can also double – triple, rather – as soundtrack and guiding principles for the unfolding visual substance. But Topaz Jones isn’t stopping there. Along with putting out his first music in three years and his first album in nearly five – an album that by the sounds of thus far leading singles, Herringbone and D.I.A.L. will transcend genre and stylistic epoch altogether as a show of force for the range he established through his parade of A-Side / B-Side’s in 2018 – he’s first and foremost taking on a barrage of social responsibility and exhibiting the beauty in Black culture through its inception, and its intertwined connection with film.
Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma is a modern reinvention of the Black ABC’s, and for those that don’t know, the Black ABC’s were ‘a flashcard system developed in the ‘70s by Chicago teachers and the Society for Visual Education. Created to provide African-American children with learning tools they could see themselves in, the cards became a staple within Chicago’s public school system before gaining national popularity. Messages like “A is for Afro” and “S is for Soul sister,” presented images of Black joy in an era where the majority of content created for kids centered on whiteness.’ [Janelle Okwodu for VOGUE].
Alongside directing duo rubberband (Simon Davis and Jason Sondock) and cinematographer, Chayse Irvin, Topaz Jones is essentially striving for the same outcome as the original Black ABC's, weaving an album through the eyeholes of a modern alphabetized focus on Black culture. 'C' is for 'Codeswitching,' 'I' is for 'Intellectual Property,' 'O' is for 'Organize,' 'V' is for 'Vulnerbale,' and all of it is a showcase of Black culture existing in harmony with Black truth. And instead of educating schoolchildren on their alphabet, Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma aims to educate the world on Blackness, while unendingly celebrating its roots. There is little doubt that the music itself will be in the conversation for one of the most intricate and dynamic albums of the year. But this is about more than music. It's more than an album, and even more than a short film.
With Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma, Topaz Jones is merging the many cultural lanes that have long inspired his artistry and continue to drive the larger cultural web of the US and the world. And at the focal point of that larger cultural web has always existed a hypocrisy of embracing Black music, Black art, Black genius, period, without really embracing Black culture at its roots. Now, that choice no longer exists, and all of us undoubtedly have something to learn and to love from the upcoming release.
So, if you do one thing this Friday, tap into Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma.