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Name: Adam Bernard
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Artist Of The Week - TopR
Monday, January 03, 2011

Since TopR and Foul Mouth Jerk work and tour as a team, it only makes sense that I follow up last week’s Foul Mouth Jerk feature with an interview with TopR. An emcee who describes his music as “feel good music for fucked up people,” TopR spent most of his formative years in the Bay Area. He moved out of his parents house at 15 and has now spent the better part of half of his life touring. Heavily influenced by hip-hop, punk rock, and graffiti art, TopR says “my musical influences have always been strongly anti-establishment, which helped shape my world view from a young age.” This week I sat down with TopR to find out more about his views, his music, and how he came to have a plethora of knowledge regarding everyone’s favorite celebrity religion, Scientology.

Adam Bernard: Despite living the first handful of years of your life on Long Island, you’re essentially from the Bay Area. That being said, would you consider your sound “Bay Area hip-hop?” What about your sound is, or isn’t, “Bay Area?”
TopR: I've been told that San Francisco, and the Bay Area in general, is almost like a character of its own in my music, and living in San Francisco has always been a major inspiration towards what I write, so by definition my music is Bay Area music. I don't have that Mob Music turf sound that other Bay Area artists have, but you can definitely hear the influence. I grew up on New York rap, so that’s the sound I gravitate to, but so did Heiro and Bored Stiff, who both were major influences on me back in the day. But yeah, my music is a Bayed out as its gets as far as I'm concerned.

Adam Bernard: You are a bazillion albums deep at this point (bazillion being an approximation). What keeps you going at such a feverish pace, and has there ever been a time when you felt burned out?
TopR: I came up around people who recorded hella songs all the time as a lifestyle. Cats would always get together and make songs. That really was never my thing. I always hated writing in the studio and would spend all my time writing bars and compiling verses from the best of what I had written. I never dropped an album early on because I was more focused on freestyling and battling, so by the time I started recording I felt like I had fallen behind many of my contemporaries in the Bay Area scene. Since it takes me so fucking long just to craft a song, I believe every God damn thing I record should be released. I saw so many cats I kicked it with sitting on albums of material that would never see the light of day and I never saw the point of it, so from my first full length LP on I took it upon myself to drop an album a year, and every single song I made would make it on one of those albums. I moved to Asheville, NC recently and took a break from writing and recording for about a year, but now I'm finally starting to work on music again. I'm pretty burned out on it now to be perfectly honest, but I'm also going through a transitional phase where I don't care about my music “career” or making a living from it anymore, so I feel as having fun and being creative becomes my main focus musically again I'll get back to being more prolific. We'll see.

Adam Bernard: Your most recent album is the L-Ron Hustler Mixtape. This is a concept album. For those who haven’t heard it yet, explain the concept and why you wanted to record this album.
TopR: The concept is that I'm a cult leader named L Ron Hustler aka Topper Koresh and my fan base is a cult called the Branch Gurpcitians. The idea came from a number of things. I had some left over songs from my previous effort, The Marathon of Shame, that hadn't been released and a bunch of random beats sitting on my hard drive from a bunch of producers that didn't seem like they would fit into a cohesive project without some sort of thread tying everything together. Sam Flores had recently given me a drawing for my 30th birthday of the Indian god Ganesh with my face and each of its six arms holding markers, a mirror of coke, a blunt and some other foul shit. I had just gone through the experience of releasing Marathon and many of the reviews had these backhanded compliments about how I was a gifted and respect rapper, but only to a cult following of skaters, metal heads and drug addicts. Basically, the were insinuating that I didn't make “real” hip-hop for true hip-hop heads or whatever. Instead of getting upset, I embraced the idea and came up with the character of L Ron Hustler. I read Dianetics and other Scientology books, studied cults and their leaders intensely as well as anti-scientology views and arguments. I kind of became a lightweight expert on the history of cults in America in the process. I decided to make it a mixtape even though it was all original beats. My boy Jamie DeWolf, founder of Oakland emcee battleground Tourettes Without Regrets, has been a huge supporter and fan who I had been wanting to collaborate with for a years, who also happens to be the actual great-grandson of L Ron Hubbard. He is one of the only “slam” poets who I find remotely tolerable, so I recruited him to host the album. I used the Sam Flores art for the cover. Dick Nasty mixed it all together with cult leader sound bites and although a lot of the songs were hastily recorded 2-track mixes, and others barely mixed at all, it came out pretty fucking good.

Adam Bernard: For your next project, which I’ll assume you’re already working on, are you going the concept route again? What can people look forward to next?
TopR: It’s tentatively entitled Life of the Party and is less conceptual then my other releases. A lot of it is a scathing diatribe about the currant state of hip-hop, talking shit on the new wave of gun rappers and the lack of support for traditional sounding underground hip-hop. A lot of it is party and drinking music. I guess you could say it is loosely about my transition from a broke grimy street urchin in San Francisco to a happily married somewhat responsible adult in Asheville. The “Life of the Party” is tongue and cheek. It’s more about the death of my party animal persona. I don't intend to release any solo material for a while after this, instead focusing on my group with Foul Mouth Jerk. For that reason I may call it Swan Songs. We'll see, it’s still a work in progress.

Adam Bernard: Having seen you perform live a couple of times I can say your shows are quite the experience. For one of your call and responses you ask people to shout “fuck you TopR.” Most emcees want people extolling how great they are, why do you want the crowd yelling “fuck you” at you?
TopR: Because Ice Cube did it first and he's fucking awesome. Beyond that, my music is pretty self deprecating and is my way of navigating through the crippling anxiety I have due to massive self-loathing, doubt and insecurity. Since so much of my music is serious in tone, yet I'm actually a fun loving dude who just likes to crack jokes and be a dick, I feel like adding some comedy to the live show creates some much needed levity. It lets the crowd know that I don't take myself too seriously and neither should they. It’s a fucking party for Christ sake and I'm a just a miserable loser like the rest of ya’ll so let’s just put that out there from the gate. I call my style “feel good music for fucked up people.” I think that explains it all.

Adam Bernard: At this point in your career where are some of the most interesting places, either physically, or creatively, hip-hop has taken you?
TopR: I've been touring and sharing the stage with legends in this hip-hop shit since I was 17 or 18, I'm now 33, and that alone makes it all worth it. I've gotten dosed without my knowledge by Granola Funk Express fans selling merch, sold drugs to rock stars on Warped Tour for gas money, fucked that one bartender at the venue for kicks and ended up marrying her six years later. I've had orgies with strippers backstage, a capping battle with Shock G in the back of a Winnebago in Portland, got in a fistfight with The Earthlings, Living Legends and Heiroglyphics vs. a bunch of security guards in New Mexico, I set fire to my DJ's girlfriends curtains at a house party in Santa Cruz, recorded a song with Z-Trip gone off thizz in AZ, and ate Italian cheeseburgers in East Orange, NJ with the Artifacts. KRS-One knows me by name. I have fans with quotes from my songs tattooed on their bodies. I've had people tell me my music saved their life. I've had people tell me my music ruined their life. I lived on people’s couches until I was 27 years old, and they didn't mind because I could rap really well. I've had heroes become best friends through graffiti and hip-hop. I lived my childhood dreams and then some.

Adam Bernard: Finally, how the heck did you end up with the name TopR?
TopR: I was homeless in Santa Cruz as a teenager and since I only kicked it with broke college students, the only food they could kick down was Top Ramen. One day tripping balls with my boy KEFR PCF at some fucked up drug front cafe on Pacific Ave, I decided that it would be hysterical if I started writing it (as graffiti). I imagined some poor malnourished UCSC student on the verge of a breakdown seeing it scrawled on a dumpster in some cutty side street and it being the final straw that lead them to mass murder or better yet, suicide by cop. It shortened to TOPR out of a need for efficiency when tagging. Eventually the name Top Ramen didn't fit me as a rapper since I hadn't touched the stuff in years and since everybody called me TOPR anyway, so the abbreviated name stuck. An unfortunate and random name for an unfortunate and random man with an unfortunate and random music career documenting an unfortunate and random lifestyle. Perfect, really.

Related Links

Website: gurpcitysouth.com
MySpace: myspace.com/topr


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:25 AM  
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