Tornup is an artist from Fort Worth who has been giving us conceptual and challenging projects such as 2019’s You Will Never Understand (The State of Soul), which was a deep dive into the prison industrial complex. Last year, as we went into lockdown, he gave us an instrumental travel guide with Touristic Sonics. In 2021, he’s upping the stakes as he embarks on a three volume concept album with producer BLKrKRT. The first volume is now here, Hologram Zoo Vol. 1: The Crypt.

Let’s just get this out of the way up front – if you’re looking for some spoon-fed, easily accessible pop music, keep it moving. If you’re looking for something weird, something out of the ordinary, something that doesn’t sound like every record out now, and something that you’ll have to listen to over and over again to understand what’s going on…pull up a chair. For the first volume in this series of albums, Tornup and BLKrKRT have come together to take you on a journey. The narrative of this volume centers around a rapper who has died before his time, only to have to legend grow thanks in part due to some unusual requests he left upon his death. The narrative then takes a turn as his legacy inspires a few people to visit the crypt where he is buried, one or more of whom might have plans to cash in on this legacy, offering the rapper the chance to live on forever in the Hologram Zoo. If this sounds strange, that’s because it is, but it is also keenly observed and creates some interesting discussion around fame, notoriety, legacy, social media, and hip hop. On top of all this, Tornup manages to tell this tale with a morbid and absurd sense of humor, where he always manages to cut the tension at just the right time, which in turn forces you as a listener to take a step back and realize how absurd we can act when we’re chasing clout. This tale is told through a mix of songs and skits, and BLKrKRT does an excellent job of creating this soundscape that draws on everything from industrial to screw to conjure up this eerie and aggressive tone that helps to guide you down this dark rabbit hole of a narrative. It’s a wild ride, but it’s also clear that these two were very careful in plotting this out to strike just the right balance across the album.

Hologram Zoo Vol. 1: The Crypt is an excellent starting point for this project from Tornup and BLKrKRT. I’m not sure where the narrative goes from here, but they did enough with this album to get me hooked. I can’t wait for the next volume to drop.