Jai Carey hopes to return a sense of community to Columbus hip-hop

The first 4Elements hip-hop night takes place at Wild Goose Creative on Sunday, March 13

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Photo from 2018 2x2 Hip-Hop Festival

Rapper Jai Carey started to reemerge in March 2021, resuming writing and recording after working his way out of a deep depression that stymied his creative urges for the better part of five years. 

Now, a year later, he’s ready to move beyond himself, aiming to revitalize a sense of community that he said has been missing since the coronavirus hit Stateside by launching a new monthly hip-hop event dubbed 4Elements: Beats, Breaks, Bars and Burners, the first of which kicks off at Wild Goose Creative at 9 p.m. on Sunday, March 13.

“It’s important that everybody understands that, for the last few years, we’ve been so separated,” Carey said. “This is our opportunity to rebuild, and to build better, and to make sure the access is there for everybody, so they know they’re not alone, which is very, very important to me.”

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With 4Elements, Carey is paying homage to hip-hop events from the city’s past, including The Break, a weekly held at Rehab Tavern, the legendary hip-hop nights at Bernie’s (R.I.P.) and the 2x2 Hip-Hop Festival, among others. “Those helped forge, not only myself, but a lot of the people I grew up around,” Carey said. “It’s important we recognize it. Also, it helps the younger artists understand the history of hip-hop within their own city. … You might not have people who are familiar with your Blueprints, your Illogics, your Thought Collectives, or even going back further, S.P.I.R.I.T. These are people who helped forge where we’re at, so going forward it’s important we recognize them.”

In addition to an open mic cypher, the event will also incorporate breakdancing, DJing and graffiti art, Carey reserving space for the four elements of hip-hop, which he described as intrinsically linked, each fueling the other. Carey, for instance, said he came up carrying record crates for pioneering Columbus DJ BHB, in addition to immersing himself in the visual arts in high school, experiences that fueled his development as an MC.

“And then the b-boys, I’ve been around breakdancers since God knows when,” Carey said, and laughed. “It helps to build that appreciation for the entire culture, and it helps to build you as a well-rounded individual. … When you have all of the elements together, it’s a different type of energy than when you separate out one of the elements. It’s definitely, definitely a different vibe.”

Following the March kickoff, which features appearances from Michigan rappers Tru Klassick and One Be Lo, in addition to a birthday tribute to BHB — “Instead of him giving back to everybody, it’s time for us to look at giving back to him,” Carey said — 4Elements will return on a monthly basis, with the second installment set for April 17. Ideally, Carey said, the event will build to a city-wide rap competition in November modeled on the End of the Weak’s MC Challenge in New York.

“We’re just going to adapt and make it better as we go,” Carey said. “That’s the goal. We’re definitely looking to make some things happen.”