Concert preview: Rapper and Ohio native Ill Poetic balances affection, sarcasm on The Silhouette Project

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

The Silhouette Project, a new five-song EP from Columbus expat and current San Diego resident Ill Poetic, finds the MC expounding on all shades of love, be it romantic or familial.

It's not always a rosy picture, either. As the rapper cautions early in the recording: "Love ain't pretty, but it's beautiful."

"The lesson I've been exposed to via my parents, via my wife and daughter and via my friendships is that the ugliest moments can strengthen the bond in all these relationships," said Ill Po, born Tim Gmeiner 33 years ago, who visits Ruby Tuesday for a concert on Sunday, May 1.

Witness "It's All Around," a song the rapper said is at least partially informed by his experiences navigating the peaks and pitfalls of marriage.

"It can feel like damned if you do and damned if you don't, like, 'Sorry I'm helpful/ Sorry I'm helpless/ I'm sorry I'm selfish/ I'm sorry I'm selfless,'" he said, quoting the song, which he described as "half apology and half passive-aggressive apology." "Then there's a real thing in it as well, and there are those moments where it's like, 'Damn, I don't want to have to ask you for help. I am sorry I'm helpless.'"

Musically, the album is as lush and rich as the MC's words are raw, building on vintage soul, funk and jazz (Ill Po name drops vibraphonist and composer Roy Ayers on a track and shares a song title with John Coltrane'sA Love Supreme) - a direction shaped by his role co-running Beat Box Records, a rare vinyl shop in San Diego.

"I'm surrounded by rare and amazing music, and the record shop has become kind of a hub for DJs, producers [and] musicians … in the neighborhood," said Ill Po, who, on "Silhouette," spins lines comparing the exhilaration of new love with the thrill of scoring rare vinyl. "I'm almost overwhelmed by how much creativity I'm surrounded by, and I'm trying to absorb as much of it as possible."

It's this creative urge that fueled Ill Po's California dreams, leading the rapper, who was born in suburban Dayton and spent his formative college and post-college years in Cincinnati and Columbus, to move to the West Coast two years ago.

"California is kind of this imaginary destination point if you've never really traveled a lot," he said. "It's almost this huge, epic Wizard of Oz-type place."

Regardless of his current zip code, however, Ill Po remains an Ohioan at heart - a trait he still sees surfacing in his verses.

"One Ohio trait, to me, is we have to keep some level of sarcasm," said Ill Po, who started rhyming at age 8, recording himself rapping Bone Thugs-N-Harmony verses on a budget tape machine. "There's a little black humor or dryness to it. My wife and I, we don't get all like, 'I love you! I love you!' There always has to be that catch where you step away and you get sarcastic. Those are still the moments I relate to most."

Ruby Tuesday

8 p.m. Sunday, May 1

1978 Summit St.,


Also playing: Playhouse, Jon Rogers, Farout, Kaz, DJ Pos2