After months of missing each other’s schedule, I finally got a chance to catch up with rising star and emcee, TOPE. If you didn’t already know, TOPE is dope and has been featured on W.Coast.K numerous times. Like HERE and HERE. If his music were wack (which it’s not), his work ethic would still put him on top. His professionalism and lack of ego in an ego driven industry is what stands out and sets him up for success.
Catch his exclusive W.Coast.K interview below to find his thoughts on the importance of building genuine relationships in the industry, how he knew he was meant to be a musician and the answer to the all too important question, “Kendrick or J.Cole.”
P.S. Don’t be a stranger when it comes to reaching out to TOPE, as you can find his contact info at the end of the interview
For those of us not familiar, give a brief run down of who TOPE is and what he stands for as an artist.
I’m a rapper / producer / other – originally from Portland, Oregon now residing somewhere between Oakland, CA and Los Angeles. TOPE the name doesn’t have a specific meaning, but as an artist I’m all about quality, honest music, an energetic live show, creative videos, clean videos, etc. I try to be the all-around artist. I’ve also been independent for most of my career – including no management or PR, I handle all my booking, press, and sometimes even art in-house.
Growing up, who could we find in your tape deck/Discman?
It really depends on what age you caught me at. I think when I was a little, little kid the first rappers I remember liking were Tone-Loc, MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice but when I got a little bit older – Snoop Dogg, 2Pac, Warren G, Biggie, Bone Thugs N Harmony, Outkast, Master P, Mystikal, Juvenile lol. I used to have every No Limit release back when they had the plastic cd cases. I was at the Warriors game the other night looking for Hammer tough. I have to meet Hammer before it’s all over, that’s a life goal of mine.
When did you know you wanted to pursue music as as a profession and not a hobby?
That’s a good question. I don’t know for sure when, but there was a certain point and time when it just clicked for me and I was like wait a second, “I can do this.” I have to credit a lot of the women in my life for believing in me before I believed in myself. I don’t want to say their names because they might get mad, but my girlfriends have always been my biggest supporters.
When I first started music I was just doing it for fun, but at a certain point maybe around TROUBLEMAN 2013, I started to believe in myself and my music more. That’s a tough thing for artists and something I still struggle with today, just believing in yourself. Taking time off this last year made me question my craft a lot, but releasing Thank You reminded me that there are a lot of people that care about my music out there. A lot of people don’t know at the height of my success (2014/2015 BROKEBOYSYNDROME) I was still working 40+ hours a week and was doing music when I could. It wasn’t until I moved to Oakland that I quit my day job and starting to look for other avenues of income through music. It’s still a struggle and I’m lucky to have a lot of great people in my corner but I haven’t worked a full time job in 2 years.
What 3 albums had the most influence on your life? Why?
2Pac – All Eyez On Me
To me 2Pac just embodies the ideal rapper. A lot of people like to get on 2pac for not being the “best lyricist of all-time” but you can’t deny 2Pac has some of the best songs in the history of Hip Hop. Who else has Dear Mama, Brenda’s Gotta Baby, Changes, PLUS California Love, Hit Em Up, and I Get Around?? The passion, the stories, the political stance, the vision – 2Pac was the G.O.A.T. I used to just play this album over and over again. There were some many things on this album that I didn’t understand listening to it as a kid, but the music and the message hit me. I Ain’t Mad At Cha…man I used to play that over and over. I could on and on about his album. Still to this day if I get drunk, I want to listen to All Eyez On Me (Disc 2).
Outkast – Aquemini
I remember my sister bought this album for me for my birthday and I was so mad. I think I wanted like Silkk The Shocker at the time or something, and my sister bought me this album thinking it was ATLiens. This album was a game-changer for me. I remember listening to this was like watching a movie, but it was also my introduction to ‘Kast so I didn’t really understand the dynamic of why people thought Andre was being weird. I just knew it was different than anything I had ever heard and I loved it. This album introduced me to the art and creativity that could go into music, specifically rap. Andre was amazing, the production was perfect. I can listen to this album from front to back to this day and not skip one song.
Pharcyde – Labcabincalifornia
This is another album that shaped me as an artist and told me it was okay to think outside the box. Fatlip was incredible on this album, Tre brought the style with his singing, and the addition of Imani and Bootie Brown’s voice perfect. This was also my introduction to Dilla. I remember just reading the credits and seeing this Jay Dee guy a lot, then I started seeing his name everywhere. I loved the skits on this album and the thought that they all lived in one big ass house recording the project. Living in Portland I really thought of The Pharcyde of stars and they painted a perfect picture of that sunny LA life. Plus I think this was right around when I first started smoking weed, so yeah this was important lol. I met Fatlip the other night in Hollywood and told him I used to play this album until I pretty much hated it and he loved hearing that, it was awesome to tell him that.
You’re well connected, “like centipedes…” Do you have any tips for us on networking and building a strong team?
I think it’s all about building genuine relationships. To be honest, it’s something I need to be better about. I feel like I’m okay but I could be a lot better. You have to support people in order to get support. I feel blessed for the amount of people that have always taken me and my music serious and have been willing to build with me. As far as music people, you just have to do your research – know who you’re emailing and what are appropriate expectations. You also have to have something to offer – you have to have a buzz as an artist or be able to return a favor as a writer or promoter. You also just have to care about your music or mission more than anyone else does. You can’t expect anything out of anyone, remind yourself that nobody owes you anything. These are all things I try to remind myself in order to stay happy with music. Just don’t forget about people, your fans matter, your writers matter, your family matters.
J.Cole or Kendrick Lamar?
I have to go with Kendrick. I think Kendrick is defintely the most innovative and creative rap artist we’ve seen in the last few years. Nobody pushes the envelope like KDot and I think you have to credit Terrace Martin with a lot of that to be honest but even if Terrace isn’t working on a specific song he has influenced the LA sound a lot. Terrace is a monster, his history of jazz is what separates Kendrick’s music. It’s funny because recently I realized if I had to compare my own music with another mainstream artist, I guess it would have to be J Cole – topic and production wise, but I’d still rather listen to Kendrick Lamar.
When can we expect to hear a new TOPE project?
Soon hopefully! I’m gonna try to drop a new project this year. We’ll see, it just has to be right.