Does Atheist view himself as a boy meeting the world? Perhaps. He’s already admitted in interviews that he named this album after Danielle Fishel’s popular character from the long-running ABC sitcom, a hippie turned hottie who undoubtedly drove many viewers as crazy as her boyfriend Cory. Topanga was “sexy thick.” That would be reason enough to go all Murs & Slug with the album title. There’s a deeper interpretation though – one which reflects the evolution of Fishel’s role from a guest character to the heart and soul of the show – and the smartest on-screen character to boot.
Atheist isn’t necessarily egocentric enough to consider himself the smartest rapper in the state of Utah, nor the City of Salt Lake, though both are routinely slept on. Atheist is not the first to hit us up though – we’ve reviewed Facts and uMaNg among others. For better or worse the most famous rapper from the state may be Spenser Dauwalder, who was arrested for spitting his order at a McDonald’s drive-through (Raashan Ahmad and Woodstock among others, and using self-deprecating humor on songs like “Freestyle Fresh” to not get a big head.
“I’ll admit it baby yeah I’m the shit!
Cause I illustrate words like a hieroglyph
And I make ’em go bananas, yo make ’em split
Twenty down(loads) on DatPiff, and yup that’s it!”
Despite knocking his own popularity, clever word skills lead to humorous snaps: “I’m a dusty NES – I don’t play!” He’s also pop as in pop culture, mining a cult classic film in “The Warriors” for a song of the same name. No detail was spared in the music video to accompany it – Atheist made sure to recapture the look and feel of the original for his clip. Watch out for The Furies and their baseball bats!
Throughout the 60 minutes of “Topanga,” Atheist flips up a variety of styles and topics, all while offering a high quality of music that Utah skeptics will be surprised by – including the quick tempo and anthemic “Salt Lake City” song. There are plenty of highlights, but if I have to choose just a few for you the reader, I’ll start with “Party in the Avenues.” It reminds me of Asher Roth’s ode to college, but places a strong emphasis on everybody getting along: “no drama when you come through the avenues/we got Henny and James, and a barbecue/even hooked a live feed of the pay-per-view .. no one’s getting stabbed, no one’s getting shot.” The wailing guitar to open “Old School” and the reverberating echo of the vocals are hella fresh, and if you’re drifting off you might think you were listening to Melle Mel. “You Love Me” turns that “20 downloads” joke into the refrain for a whole song, and even as he laughs at himself, he appreciates each and every person who took time to listen. Beat courtesy of Brock Berrigan.
If you take one prevailing theme away from Atheist at the end of “Topanga” it is in fact gratitude. He’s happy to be rapping, happy to work with dope producers, and happy to have the platform to share that music with a larger audience. Undoubtedly that audience is larger that SLC or Utah, but just how much larger will depend on his ability to self-promote and to get the word out that fresh things do happen where he’s from. He doesn’t play to the stereotypes of Mormons, ski slopes or low alcohol beer – he makes the same kind of dope underground rap you’d hear in Minnesota, Michigan or Missouri. This boy is indeed ready for the world.