Chance The Rapper’s Coloring Book expanded the scope of gospel, the Internet’s Ego Death explored neo-soul and Kendrick Lamar dove headfirst funk on To Pimp a Butterfly. Each of these albums pushed the boundaries by successfully infusing current cultural references with well-established and deeply-rooted genres, many of which soundtracked our parents’ adolescence. Indeed, blending styles is a thing of the present.
Today (October 28), rising New Jersey artist Topaz Jones takes a cue from these musicians—particularly Kendrick—on his latest release, Arcade—a rap project that channel’s funk’s forefathers, and acknowledges the longstanding significance of the genre.
Indeed, Arcade is just as indebted to funk’s predecessors as it is to Jones’ family: His father was a funk musician and his grandmother and her siblings had a Motown group. Because of them, Jones grew up listening to legendary figures like Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, Parliament-Funkadelic and Earth, Wind & Fire.
This influence is present throughout Arcade, particularly on standout track “Powerball,” where, while the verses are more beholden to rap, the pulsating bassline drips with the same electrifying psychedelics as P-Funk. “Tropicana,” on the other hand, is more prone to the stylings of OutKast’s Stankonia, Jones’ delivery strutting across the hard-hitting, layered beat.
Songs like “Howlin’ To The Moon” confirm Jones’ uncanny ability to craft melodic, captivating hooks, his vocals pliable as he interchanges between punctuated verses and a sultry chorus. The bouncy quality of the first half of “Get Lost / Untitled” stands in stark contrast to the second half’s lo-fi aesthetic, which shows a more vulnerable side of the Montclair native.
Though Arcade finds its roots in hip-hop, the project’s homage to funk gives the tracks their luster and is truly what allows Jones to blossom. While it’s easy to adopt a person’s sound, and do a terrible job at that, Jones thrives in this lane. He isn’t afraid to further the narrative that Kendrick started; Arcade is proof that Jones is fearless.
By Tara Mahadevan. Follow her on Twitter.
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