Local music: J. Rawls

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

J. Rawls' basement studio is a super-sized scrapbook of the Columbus hip-hop producer's storied career.

One wall displays covers from every record he's worked on, from his rap duo Lone Catalysts to his jazz-hop band The Liquid Crystal Project to collaborations with Dudley Perkins, Middle Child and John Robinson.

Turn left to see more album covers, these from Rawls' musical heroes-turned-peers - Tha Alkaholiks, for instance.

Keep spinning to encounter a huge collection of flyers dating back to the '80s, when Rawls shifted from beatboxing and breakdancing to making beats using his dad's old LPs.

The final wall is full of autographs from musicians who've recorded there, including Talib Kweli.

Hip-hop has had a deep impact on Rawls' life. He wants to share that with young folks who take the genre for granted.

"Growing up, that's all they've ever known," said Rawls, 37. "(Hip-hop is) everywhere. And I'm from a time when it wasn't. And I respect that."

"The Hip Hop Affect," out this week on New York label Nature Sounds, is Rawls' attempt to educate a generation raised on Soulja Boy and Young Jeezy about hip-hop's positive social and musical legacies. The producer brought in a stunning cast of rappers to perform over his ace old-school beats, including Sadat X of Brand Nubian, Rhymefest and Pete Rock, plus the 23 Ohio emcees on marathon single "We're On Top."

"We've got a lot of new up-and-comers," Rawls said. "They won't ever get that exposure. That's my obligation."

Rawls steps to the mic twice to rap about marriage and raising kids. Born and raised on the South Side, he moved his family to Pickerington in 2004.

"It's quiet out here," Rawls said. "I'm from a part of town that isn't quiet."

He still gets around, though. Rawls toured Ohio throughout April and will host album release parties in Columbus and New York next week. A performance at Magnolia Thunderpussy is lined up for Friday. He also commutes to OU to work on a PhD in education.

Rawls' studio stays busy, too. Albums from Lone Catalysts and Liquid Crystal Project are in the works, and he's always adding to the record collection he permanently borrowed from his dad.

"I don't stop. I'm always digging," Rawls said.

Listen in:

Magnolia Thunderpussy

7 p.m. Friday, May 20

1155 N. High St., Short North