Editor’s note: Coordinating with our in-depth retrospective on the life of Camu Tao, Alive contributor and certified local hip-hop head Paul Meara shares his ten favorite tracks ever to come out of Columbus.
Columbus hip-hop has seen itself transform numerous times, with each instance bringing in a new wave of sound. From S.P.I.R.I.T. in the early days to present interpretations, Ohio’s capital city has never produced just one brand of rap sonics. And perhaps that’s for the better.
10. P. Blackk – “Concorde Rollin’”
To this day, no P. Blackk song has been able to eclipse the familiarity and catchiness of “Concorde Rollin.’” It’s the song that made Pedro a name in the boutique scene and the prelude to some of his best work.
9. The 3RD – “Super Soul”
Even with a limited catalog, The 3RD dropped a few gems. “Super Soul” was one of them. Raw hip-hop lyrics meet a smooth, jazzy-laden backdrop on the song. Few hometown hip-hop songs represent their Ohio funk roots better.
8. Illogic (feat. Blueprint) – “Favorite Things”
If you were a rapper and a hip-hop fan in the late 90s, then this was your song. So many relatable references were made in the reminiscing back-and-fourth cut. It would also be a standout in the long, critically acclaimed collaborative catalog between Illogic and Blueprint.
7. Fly Union – “Dumb Down”
No other song represented Columbus hip-hop’s transition from record stores and basements to boutiques better than “Dumb Down.” Before their latter Value Pack releases and long before TGTC, the song had the then-quartet performing at Embassy, Sole Classics and Milk Bar in a style transition unprecedented in the city.
6. Columbus Mob – “Underground Funk”
One of the first nationally recognized hip-hop songs from Columbus, “Underground Funk” helped put the city on the map in 1995, even if it was just for a minute.
5. Blueprint – “Radio-Inactive”
Basically a middle finger to commercialism and an anthem for underground emcees all about their craft, “Radio-Inactive” generated discussion to say the least. Even though the song was well received by most, it still marked a sonic change for Print, one that helped him remain relevant for years to come.
4. Illogic – “1000 Whispers”
Illogic’s Celestial Clockwork album was one of the greatest to ever come from Ohio, and “1000 Whispers” was a defining joint from the project. It helped illustrate Illogic’s menacing emceeing style and accompanying psychotic melodies.
3. Camu Tao – “Hold the Floor”
Produced by DJ PRZM, “Hold the Floor” became a defining example of early Rhymesayers/Definitive Jux-style sound. It was the anthem for Atmosphere’s God Loves Ugly tour and a seminal prototype of Camu’s unique emceeing prowess. RIP Camu and PRZM.
2. RJD2 – “Ghostwriter”
What needs to be said about this song? It has 17 million plays on Spotify and was played on ESPN when Ohio State won the college football National Championship in January.
1. MHz – “World Premier”
“World Premier” was the song that would eventually put RJD2, Copywrite, Camu Tao, Jakki Da Motamouth and Tage Future over the top. After a focused pursuit of New York Hot 97’s Bobbito Garcia during the late 90s, the five-member MHz crew finally heard their standout track played on New York radio — something few had accomplished in previous years. Actually, few from Columbus have cracked the world’s biggest radio market since.
Honorable Mention: “June” (RJD2 feat. Copywrite), “Illy” (SA Smash), “Long Run” (Fly Union), “Polo on My Body” (L.e for the Uncool), “This Year” (MHz).