With the emergence of Columbus artists pushing boundaries that transcend beyond the city, it’s hard to ignore this reality: Columbus is changing. One could even say the city’s evolving, as its artists are re-establishing some of the elements that made Columbus a cultural hub during the 1980s and 90s. When then, creativity was arguably at its purist form.
Everything from the showcases, creative sanctuaries, and the legion of artists working to establish Columbus’ hip-hop scene. It’s what the city’s cultural origins were built on, and what’s now sparked a resurgence of the components that essentially made Columbus hip-hop.
These elements, depending on who you ask, have historically consisted of emceeing, break dancing, graffiti, deejaying, and the understanding of culture. Through time these elements began to submerge in the city and, ultimately, created an artistic crusade led by creatives in search of artistic freedom. Hip hop provided this freedom for aspiring dancers, artists, poets and musicians, one that would pave a storied history in the city.
What carried Columbus’ artistic crusade was the strength of its creatives, who dictated the city’s sound and aesthetic. Even more so, they brought together talents from all over the city to collaborate, just as DJ BHB did when he created Columbus’ first Hip-Hop Expo in 1995.
Today, a new generation of artists have restored the same energy that pioneers like Phazo, The Intalec and Camu Tao fortified in the 80s. These figures essentially built today’s cultural landscape, and their contributions have inspired today’s creatives to continue bidding for their expression. If nobody’s willing to say it I will: the city’s entering a renaissance.
Artists, like many in the past, have carved out an underground scene that’s cultivated both young and veteran acts. They’ve developed creative spaces, which serve as artistic sanctuaries called “art traps.” These spaces are typically secluded or abandoned houses where artists can indulge in their artistry.
Like the Groove Shack era that consumed the 90s, artists use art traps to bask in their individual crafts and embrace other’s abilities. More importantly, they build relationships among their peers for means of collaboration and mentorship.
These spaces are opportunities to create. But historically, the showcase has been the preeminent stage where artists make a name for themselves. There, artists look to obtain their fanbase and the respect of their contemporaries.
Both organizations and artists have developed showcases, with many placed at the Rehab Tavern and Ruby Tuesday music-diner Downtown. These small venues provide a platform for unpolished acts to develop their stage presence. And Skully’s, an acclaimed music-diner in the Short North, allows more established artists the opportunity to perform in front of larger and more diverse crowds.
The city’s showcases have also allowed artists to perform at several of the city’s esteemed community and music festivals. And upon them gaining local acclaim, they can open up for mainstream acts performing in Columbus, which further expends an artist’s brand.
In addition to musical showcases, organizations have developed open mic events for aspiring poets as well. Like national award-winning poet, Jugga Levert or “JG the Jugganaut,” who produces a poetry event every Thursday at the Lincoln Café. His contributions, along with others, have elevated the culture and provided opportunities many didn’t have in the city’s past.
But the biggest tool past artists and tastemakers didn’t have was the source of the Internet. Instead, people relied on traditional forms of media like the radio, local magazines and newspapers to hear local music and read about upcoming events.
The transition to the digital age has been favorable for young artists, as many have utilized the Internet for means of promotion. Beyond word of mouth, the expansion of SoundCloud, Twitter, Facebook and other media forms are spreading the city’s culture.
In turn, veteran and new acts have garnered local and national attention. Artists are getting looks from renowned publications like Complex Magazine and MTV, as they’ve ushered in a following that developed online.
Though artists have reached the pinnacle of national success before, the city never got its proper recognition. Today’s artists, however, are elevating on the ranks while representing the city. They’re representing our city, and fortifying a cultural remanence only comparative to the “golden age” of Columbus hip-hop. It’s clear to say we’re on the cusp of another monumental moment in history.