Top City is more than just a place, it’s a state of mind.
FOR THE LOVE OF MUSIC
Rias and Owens hold a passion for music and mixing. Rias, who works for Dish Network, and Owens, who works for Hill’s Pet Nutrition, continue to book gigs around northeast Kansas. Rias said his love for house music came from a young age when he heard artists such as Fast Eddy, Bad Boy Bill and Julian Jumpin’ Perez while growing up in Chicago. When he moved to Topeka, he didn’t own a mixer. But back in Chicago for Christmas, that changed.
or years, Topeka has garnished the nickname “Top City.” But, at one time, the nickname hadn’t yet seen its creation.
Vandon Rias, AKA DJ Top City, coined the term roughly 20 years ago when he found inspiration in an unusual spot: off a packing listing. “About 1992 or ’93, I was working for Airborne Express and all our packages just had ‘Top’ on them,” said Rias. “We had a party once and realized we needed a cool name other than Topeka, so on the flier I just put ‘Top’ and then realized since we’re near Kansas City, I might as well add ‘city.’ So it became Top City.” Rias said soon after this, he started referring to Topeka as Top City when he was performing his DJ routine. Troy Owens, AKA Def DJ and one of Rias’ best friends, also helped Rias coin the term. Rias said growing up in Chicago until age 12, he received a lot of inspiration to help push Topeka forward. “Top City to me is more than just a place, it’s a state of mind. I always came from a town where people do things at the top of their game,” said Rias. “Even though we’re in Topeka, we’re still at the top of our game. That’s the mentality.” Fast forwarding to present, Rias said he never expected the name to stick the way it has. With the event Top City Thursdays and organization Top City Live both making a name for themselves, Rias has found it interesting to see how the name has progressed. “It’s refreshing that everything we did, it wasn’t forgotten,” said Rias. “People who’ve got kids now are calling Top City. It would be nice though for people to know exactly where it arrived from.”
“I had these tight green leather shoes, and I told my granddad ‘I’ll trade you my shoes for a mixer’ and he agreed,” said Rias. “I was the happiest kid ever on the ride home, because I finally had a mixer.” For Owens, his influences began with his mother, who is a retired music teacher from USD 501, and his father, who played guitar in a band as Owens was growing up. He said the first time he saw a record, his dad let him play it. “It was George Clinton, and when you see George Clinton as a kid with the big boots, you’re thinking ‘whoa, what is that?’” said Owens. “I wore that record out. Ever since then, I’ve had a love for music.” Through the years, both of them have had their share of experiences, including Rias working with Lil Wayne, Redman and Tech N9ne at separate events. The duo has also played numerous house shows for fraternities and sororities at the University of Kansas. Nowadays, in Topeka, the former location of London’s Jazz Café is one of the places they will rent out for gigs, with the next one coming early in December. The event will also include comedy. “It’ll be like a big house party, but it’s our house party,” said Owens. As well, Club Rumba in NOTO has opened its doors to the duo. Each said they can’t imagine the idea of no longer performing. One way each said they keep their sets fresh is through crowd adaptation. “A lot of people don’t realize that the DJ controls everything,” said Owens. “I judge what I play off the reaction of the crowd. A lot of times I don’t even have to say a word, and the crowd is dancing.” Rias said his son, a freshman in high school, has followed in his footsteps and has already begun producing music. He hopes others also see that Topeka has a place for performers and people willing to put their hearts into something. “I don’t want to tell him that it sounds better than me, but he’s going to find out,” said Rias. “I’m proud of him, because I didn’t try to make him like music. It’s more him seeing us still encouraging younger people in our town that if you love something and you’re passionate, you never know where it might take you.” aseveneightfive 27
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