Remembering Nes Wordz

Andy Downing
Sheron "Nes Wordz" Colbert

For me, the defining moment of the three 2x2 Hip-Hop Festivals that I’ve attended remains Sheron “Nes Wordz” Colbert’s ascendant solo turn on a sweaty, cramped Roofless Stage in 2015. He rapped about clawing his way up from the bottom, called for justice for Sandra Bland and paid tribute to fallen friends. He was, at turns, moving, magnetic and undeniable — a force of nature with nowhere to go but up.

Then two years later he was gone.

As a result, Nes’ ghost hung heavy over 2x2 in 2017, which featured a graffiti artist painting a giant mural of Nes’ grinning face, as well as a heartbreaking tribute to the rapper highlighted by a performance from his son, Daylon Colbert, aka Young Nes.

It’s a certainty his name will be shouted from the stage again this year, his legacy carried forward by his many friends and collaborators. In that spirit, revisit some of our past coverage of the rapper.

August 2013

1985. It’s the year smack dab in the middle of determining whether one is of Generation X or Y. For Toledo-native-turned-Columbus-resident Sheron Colbert, the year 1985 means a lot more.

The four digits are tattooed across his chest and convey his birth year, but even more, they signify the restoration of his music career and provide a new outlook on life.

“Everyone knows that I rap,” Colbert said. “Regardless of other things that you might know me for, it was the rap first.”

Continue reading Locals: Nes Wordz’ new album provides rapper “rebirth” of music career.

July 2015

Nes Wordz, in contrast, performed on the roofless stage (a small brick building left open to the elements by a caved-in roof) and tore through explosive, high-energy songs about clawing his way up from the bottom, paying tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement (“Justice for Sandra Bland!” he shouted) and fallen friends atop kinetic backdrops that ranged from trap beats to '80s-style boom-bap.

“I’m in the stratosphere, and I ain’t coming down for hours!” he cried. It’s a similar high many walked away with as the inaugural 2x2 drew to a close.

Continue reading Sensory Overload: Successful 2x2 Hip-Hop Fest already set to return in 2016.

January 2017

“Paying Dues,” a soul-kissed number that falls near the close of Nes Wordz’ most recent EP, AnyDayNow, finds the MC taking stock, rapping, “I made a promise to myself/That I would tighten up my belt.”

It’s a promise Nes has kept throughout his recording career, which has traced his steady evolution from a drug-slinging youngster to an educator and father of four, who, at the age of 30, has reached new creative peaks, headlining main stage festivities at ComFest in 2016 and gearing up for the release of a long-in-the-works autobiographical LP documenting this rise.

“It’s definitely [the story of] a boy becoming a man, and I kind of mapped it out to be that way,” said Nes, born Sheron Colbert in Toledo. “I’ve got a lot of homies that are dead and gone or doing 50 years [in prison]. They’re never going to see the light of day or see their children grow up, and I shed tears for that kind of thing. I have to tell that story because that’s the reality going on in our streets.”

Continue reading Bands to Watch 2017: Nes Wordz.

July 2017

Attendees at the 2x2 Hip-Hop Festival might do a double-take during a planned tribute to Columbus rapper and educator Nes Wordz, born Sheron Colbert, who died in late June.

At 7:30 p.m. on the main stage, Nes’ 13-year-old son, Daylon Colbert, who has adopted the stage name Young Nes, will lead a celebration in honor of his late father, performing a pair of his dad’s best-known songs (“Get It Gone” and “Holy Ghost”) in addition to a handful of newly recorded tunes.

“It’s going to freak a lot of people out,” said Demetrius Howard, aka SupaNatra, who will be DJing for Young Nes just weeks after manning the decks during Nes Wordz’ final performance, which took place at ComFest in June. “He’s tall. He has [the same] skin tone [and the same] mannerisms. He even has short curly hair. The only thing he’s missing is the beard.

“At [Nes’] memorial benefit at Avalon [on July 5], that was Daylon’s first time in front of the [turn]tables, and it was eerie. He sang his dad’s words really loud with a big smile on his face — a very familiar smile. And we want to bring that to 2x2 as well.”

Continue reading 2x2 Hip-Hop Festival remembers Nes Wordz.

November 2017

The Saturday morning before rapper Nes Wordz closed out ComFest in June, he shared a tearful conversation with friend and fellow MC Darrio Lamont, who began the day attending his father’s funeral in Cleveland.

“I didn’t have the best relationship with my father, but [Nes was] crying because he wants to be so close to his friends. [He] was like, ‘I’m upset I’m never going to have the chance to meet your father, because you’re my brother and I want to have the opportunity to meet all your parents,’” said Lamont, who met Nes in 2007 and joined him in concert at ComFest that night, completing the three-hour drive down I-71 South just moments before taking the stage. “He’s that kind of guy. He’d give to a fault. Trying to give somebody a hand, he’d give a whole arm.”

In memory of his father’s passing, Lamont requested Nes perform “If It’s My Time,” a defiant, live-till-you’re-gone track the rapper penned in remembrance of friend and activist MarShawn McCarrel, who died by suicide in February 2016.

For Nes, the ComFest performance capped a years-long stretch that had seen him rise from talented collaborator to a heralded solo act capable of enthralling a capacity crowd, many of whom rapped along to every word spit by the tall, lanky artist. Producer Jack “Tha Audio Unit” Burton later said that onstage that night it appeared clear to him that Nes had finally accepted what many in Columbus had long been telling him: He was, at an absolute minimum, the best rapper in the city.

Still, Nes had one more promise to keep. As his set wound down, he made eye contact with Lamont and said, “I got you.” At that point, Magna Media Group founder Demetrius “SupaNatra” Howard, a rapper and producer who doubled as Nes’ official DJ, queued up “If It’s My Time,” which the MC introduced with a short, characteristically bombastic speech. “If this is my last time performing,” he said, “I want to leave you with this.”

Continue reading Last Wordz: The magnetic life and tragic death of Sheron “Nes Wordz” Colbert.