TOPE: Taking a step forward


Making changes can be hard sometimes. There can be a lot on the line when one quits their job, moves from one place to another, decides to live with or without something. We all know how terrifying it is to face ourselves and know we are in need of something new, different, altered.

But these changes are necessary because they lead to personal growth. The ability to identify what one needs or doesn’t need is central to advancing our understanding of the lives we live.

And change, is just what TOPE, Portland-born, Oakland-based rapper, has done for himself.

Portland is approximately 630 miles north of Oakland. These miles were travelled by TOPE more than a year ago, as he left his life in Portland behind, heading to California to pursue furthering his already extensive Northwest rapping career.

“The weather alone has been worth the move,” TOPE said in a recent interview.

The weather and, more importantly, the time spent alone.

See, TOPE had made a real name for himself in the Northwest, specifically in Portland. Living there his entire life, he was able to make connections that were long-term and beneficial to creating a strong fan base and community. He released his first album in 2010 and has completed 14 projects since, 8 of them being solo.

But when he got to Oakland it became apparent that he was in need of a break. Some time for reflection had become necessary for him to move on with his dream, he said. It was during this time that he developed his latest album, 3a.m. in Oakland.

“I was having a lot of my greatest thoughts late at night and this album is a reflection of that,” he said. “I had to take a step back to take a step forward.”

He was asking himself all of the questions someone asks themselves in a time of great transformation – Is this the right move? Am I in the right place? What am I doing with my life? How did I get here? The list goes on.

And what he discovered? That yes, he was indeed in the right time at the right place and his passion for making music was indeed real.

“This album is really one of many chapters of my life and my story as a musician,” he said.

TOPE realized things that have helped him grow as a person and thus grow as an artist. Coming up and gaining popularity in Portland had him on something of an ego-trip, he said, and the time he was able to spend in Oakland helped him realize that the music isn’t as much about him as it is about the fans and the process of creation.

“I have started to go back to basics in many ways,” he said. “I am getting more acquainted with music theory and instrumentals than ever before, which is helping me advance my music as a form.”

These realizations and this time of personal growth have created something of a wise man out of TOPE. He is able to better understand the different aspects of the process as well as advance the sophistication of his sound, he said.

A self-evaluation was needed after his move and now he is able to continue moving forward, especially with an approaching west coast tour to begin early this month.

He will be at the Swillery on June 17 and said Bellingham can look forward to more live performance and an energetic show.

TOPE remains individual, working as his own public relations specialist, web developer, designer, everything. He said he will consider signing to a label if the right opportunity presents itself and with the following he has gathered; one may sense that time is coming sooner than later.

LIVE SHOW: See TOPE at Swillery on June 17. Follow him online for updates at

Published in the June 2016 issue of What’s Up! Magazine