Sensory Overload: King Vada and his cohorts stop to smell the flowers at Circus

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

King Vada certainly doesn’t lack for confidence.

“I’m probably the best rapper in the entire world,” the local said from the Circus stage on a recent Thursday. The concert served as both a release party for the cocky MC’s latest EP, Flowers Before I Go, and as an overview of the current Columbus hip-hop scene. In addition to Vada, the show also featured performances by P. Blackk, Cholo and Fabrashay A, among others.

Vada kicked off the onstage action and served as the de facto master of ceremonies, introducing each artist and performing at various points throughout the evening. But while Vada’s tone remained conversational, his lyrics were often cryptic. Songs mentioned stonemasons and numerology, and at one point he described himself as “a nightmare of physics … I’m everywhere.” Occasionally he waded into current events — one tune touched on youth violence and the scourge of black-on-black crime — but overall he appeared more interested in constructing verbal flights of fancy a step removed from reality.

The same couldn’t be said of others on the bill, all of whom remained embroiled in the harsher realities of day-to-day life.

P. Blackk brought an undeniable energy to his three-song cameo, hitting the stage like a boxer storming forth at the opening bell, but the songs he chose to perform here found the MC doing little more than obsessing about his street cred (“I’m too real for my own good”) and lashing out at his haters. Cholo, in contrast, moved as though he was swimming in molasses. Words tended to spill from him nearly as slowly, trickling forth in a deep, syrupy tone. The rapper’s songs weren’t blue-collar so much as they aspired to be so one day, and his verses often sounded born of life on the bottom of the pile. On one cut he noted not even his grandmother is retired, and on a second he described himself as “too tired to struggle” as life, like gravity, exerted its steady pull.

Fabrashay A lacked no such motivation, flashing both an astounding lyrical dexterity and toughness at odds with his eggshell-fragile stage name. When life swung at the rapper, he didn’t hesitate to return fire, unleashing torrents of syllables atop dark, ominous beats that conjured images of deserted city streets. At times, the MC’s sound was admittedly raw, and he didn’t hesitate to call himself a work-in-progress (“Came a long way, still a ways to go,” he spit on one track), but like a five-tool prospect in the developmental league, it’ll be a sight to behold once he puts it all together.