As we reach the end of the year, we’ve reached that time where everyone lists their favorite albums, or artists, from the past year. Many lists will be might with criticism for not mentioning whatever artist it is that said critic believes deserves some shine and I believe that these people have a right to that opinion.
This year, I’m choosing to write about the album that I already know won’t get the love it deserves on these lists as it already hasn’t gotten the love it so rightfully deserves all year. That album is Topaz Jones’ Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma, a reflective, funk embroidered work that touches on self-discovery, identity, and upbringing.
Jones, a New Jersey native, took five years after his debut, Arcade, to dig deep in his roots in Montclair, New Jersey to draft an audiovisual project that would become the album and accompanying short film of the same name. The short film, directed by Jones and creative team rubberband., reimagines the black ABCs, an educational program started in the 1970s by Chicago teachers and the Society for Visual Education to educate Black youth through illustrated flash cards.
Jones and crew update them, with letters like “C” being for code-switching. It’s used as a framing device to tell stories of growing up and for musings on black identity and education. This is all tied together by beautiful depictions of black culture. The film won the Short Film Jury Award at this year’s Sundance Festival.
I simply adore this album, the funk and grooves give for some a great, soulful, head-nodding experience. It’s Jones’s lyricism, however, that ties you in. Moments like the backend of the infectious “Black Tame” where Jones gets introspective over the ways how black men’s treatment of black women, something he sees himself being at fault of, leads to the internalization of these feelings. There’s the opening track, “Mirror” in which Jones opens with “I think I’m finally finding me / My whole life has been hide and seek,” which pretty much clues you in on how reflective this album will be.
The production which gives these at times grand, while still feeling laidback and beautiful, backgrounds for Jones to tell us stories of growing up wanting the freshest pair of sneakers, family fights, open-hearted confessions, and self-doubt. It’s such a thoughtful album that really stuck with me from when it was released in April, but no one talks about it still. If there’s one album you give a listen to before the year is up, please make it be this one; you won’t regret it.