Turner Jackson has a theory about the often overlooked hip-hop scene in Denver. According to him, Denver isn’t the kind of town to accept genre restrictions. Denver wants multitudes, what Jackson calls “alloys.”
“Denver is a kind of town where alloys win,” Jackson says. “What I mean by that is you have to put two things together for people to notice. You can have pop culture and rap, and put those together and win. But you just can’t have pop, and can’t have just rap or just country. It limits it to a certain crowd of people.”
The theory makes sense. It’s 2016; no band consists of a singular sound anymore. There’s just too much music to draw from, to be influenced and inspired by. If you want to reach more than the hardcore fans (be that of punk, pop or any genre), then you have to mix sounds together, stir and blend. It’s that theory, the theory of alloys, that has caused Jackson to abandon rap and create a broader definition on hip-hop, and to make what seems to be the ultimate party record: Red Plastic Cup.
“The whole record is not a party record, but it’s a party-themed record,” Jackson says. “Pre-party, during the party, and post-party. That’s more along the lines of what it is. Denver is a party city, but I don’t think people necessarily remember when they were like, ‘I’m going to party.’ I remember a day where I was like, ‘You know what, I’ve never really partied before. And right now, partying and getting turnt up and doing all the stuff that comes with that culture is really important to me.’ That might have been two years ago, so I did that for two years and was a great savage out there.”
Those two years culminated in Red Plastic Cup, which is a strong departure from Jackson’s rap sound. The single is about a mythical house party where your cup is always full of jungle juice, and every time you turn around, you see another friend. It’s catchy and simple, and it’ll make you dance. From there, the album's genre switches to a gospel sound on “Fools Gold,” and then switches again to “Yesterday,” which Jackson describes as a bluegrass track. The album is everything except a Turner Jackson rap album.
“I listen to a lot of different genres, and I am not so in love with just doing hip-hop anymore,” Jackson says. “It’s not as appealing. I never wanted to be like the world's best rapper; it was never that. I wanted to be the world's best conveyer of emotions to people. So, if you think of rap as an emotion, it's only one emotion most of the time.”
His leave from his MC roots has a motive other than to create the best party album Denver has ever heard. He’s ready to reach what he calls the “GP,” or general public.
“Historically, I have a rap fan base, and because of Souls in Action and other artists I work with, a lot of them are EDM fans, too, but the general crowd of people who listen to music in Colorado, they don’t like either one of those genres,” Jackson says. “So I see it as a wall, an EDM and hip-hop wall, and over that wall is the promised land, the ocean. And you can do anything you want once you get to the ocean.”
It sounds romantic when you describe it that way. Chilling in the ocean, away from the womp of the EDM scene. The poor metaphors and forced rhymes of the rap scene fading away in the distance as you sail toward bigger crowds, better shows and more exposure. Jackson wanted to create an album that would “fly anywhere,” that would get people who don’t turn up for hip-hop shows to give him a chance. It’s a noble goal, and takes more foresight than most local artists care to have.
“No matter what I do, people are already sold on it, because they trust the brand and me,” Jackson says. “They know I’m not gonna sacrifice my creativity or artistic ability to do anything. But also, you do what you want. I wanted to make a record that any record executive anywhere would listen and say, ‘Yeah, this is totally sellable.' It just worked.”
While Jackson is trying for a broader fan base, he hasn’t forgotten where he came from, or what inspired this record: drinking. It’s why he’s chosen to release his album on the drunkest of all holidays: St. Patrick’s Day.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
“Denver is a drinking town; everyone loves to drink here,” he says. “There’s not a Sunday that doesn’t have a patio full of people. It’s a representation of Denver culture. Everything I do is synonymous with Denver culture.... I’m not going to make a ‘I love 303’ song, but you don’t have to make it when you live it.”
But Jackson is more than just a party animal. After all, this album was started over two years ago and more or less finished a year ago. Since then he’s grown up a bit, and, oh, yeah, made another record that he’s waiting to release on the public.
“Red Plastic Cup is a coming-of-age sound to me,” he says. “This next record is more of an adult sound. I’m not a young adult anymore, I’m 27, I know what I want, I know how to have fun, and no one can sucker me into anything.”
Turner Jackson plays the Bluebird on Thursday, March 17, with Oren L & Bad Bodega, Crystal Ghost and Tripper Jones.