Locals: Senseless keeps his head up amid 'A Bunch of Nonsense'

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

Senseless, born Jacob Engle 21 years ago, described his 2015 debutLiving on Landas blindly optimistic - "On that first record I was on a save-the-world tip," he said - noting that his follow-up, the just-releasedA Bunch of Nonsense, is a far more grounded, realistic affair. It's an evolution the MC attributes to some combination of the natural maturation process and a still-growing awareness of the social and political storm clouds gathered overhead.

"Right now, it's turbulent times," said Senseless, going on to talk about the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests and the fast-approaching presidential election - a topic he broaches on "C Is Average," albeit briefly. "I see you waving iron flags/Candidates are hand-picked," he raps.

That's not to say Senseless has drifted too far from the sunny side - his music, built on jazzy backdrops courtesy of DJ Bombay (local mainstays J. Rawls and Blueprint each chip in with a track, as well), still skips just ahead of the encroaching shadows. But the rapper said this time around the decision to keep things upbeat was more considered.

"The first one … is very much me being 19 and idealistic," said Senseless, who marks the record's release with a Double Happiness concert on Friday, Oct. 28, serving as warmup for headliner Busdriver. "Now, as I get older, I feel my optimism is more of a choice. I see it and say, 'I choose to feel good today.'"

Throughout, Senseless flashes both a strong verbal acumen - "Next From Rise" finds the rapper dropping English-lit terminology like an adjunct professor in waiting - and a vivid imagination, which he attributes largely to growing up as an only child.

"My mind will run to some places for sure, and I'm getting to a point I'm not afraid of it," Senseless said.

In turn, conversations with the rapper can quickly become more meandering affairs. Asked about the bond he shares with producer Bombay, Senseless initially feigned ignorance ("I don't know why he messes with me") before exploring the big-brother dynamic the two share ("I'm young and want to adventure, and sometimes I'll have Bombay pulling me by the back of the shirt, like, 'No, you don't'") and eventually breaking off into an impromptu analysis of the modern record industry ("As I'm getting older I'm realizing it's not all about the music").

Later, a question about the Everyman aspect of the rapper's music - "Really just a man, not a knight in shining armor," goes a line in one song - leads to a response that touches on everything from white privilege to the importance of celebrating the city's musical legacy. "People lose sight of why they get to make hip-hop," he said. "I feel very fortunate to be from Columbus, because we do have J. Rawls here and we do have DJ O Sharp and BHB and Bombay and Pos 2 and all these guys that can really son you and help you along the way."

On record, Senseless projects a sharper image, even on those tracks where he's grappling to find his footing. "The Eleventh Hour," for one, is filled with allusions to winding roads and leaps of faith delivered with startling directness. "I'm not accepting of the climate," the rapper lectures, sounding like a man no longer content to cheerily go along for the ride.

"I communicate much better through music and song," Senseless said. "And I think if I can portray a message through a song, and show you I can be OK with myself, and maybe you can be OK with yourself, I think that's more powerful than anything."

Double Happiness

9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28

482 S. Front St.,

Brewery District



ALSO PLAYING: Busdriver, Metasota, Hafrican, Jai Carey, DJ Product