Sole Classics is a hub for the latest wave of top-notch Columbus hip-hop. Many of that scene's leading performers gathered Sunday for an outdoor party celebrating the Short North boutique's fifth anniversary.

Sole Classics is a hub for the latest wave of top-notch Columbus hip-hop. Many of that scene's leading performers gathered Sunday for an outdoor party celebrating the Short North boutique's fifth anniversary.

I caught most of the action, beginning with Rashad's brief set. The 3rd's mastermind is a music biz veteran, but he's just starting to get his due nationally thanks to the success of Stalley's "Lincoln Way Nights," an album produced by Rashad, and the single "Slapp," for which Rashad sings the unshakeable hook.

The highlight of Rashad's appearance was a track from his upcoming "Museum" project. The song is in the same lane as "Slapp," with a rich melodic chorus giving way to spare, thumping verses. Rashad handled the singing and the rapping - a good look for him, even if his expert hooks and production tend to outshine his rapping skills.

Fabrashay A started with spoken word before delivering "Shark in the Water" with far more authority than the studio version. The beats on "The Art Show" aren't the strongest, but the songs feel like hits when Fab is on stage going hard. And "Lil Penny" is an unimpeachable hip-hop power ballad.

P. Blackk is so laid-back and lanky that it wouldn't be quite right to say he laid waste to the Ibiza lot, but his performance showed why he's so promising. Not many guys can convincingly rap over a Gucci Mane beat, quote Dr. Dre and name-check A Tribe Called Quest in a four-song set.

Blackk rapped, "I wanna say I'm one of the best, but ain't yet." Maybe not, but he's gaining ground fast. Lyrics dripped into his mic at unexpected intervals, suave and nerdy in equal measure.

The last act I saw was Fly.Union, whose "TGTC" is part of an incredibly strong class of major Columbus releases this spring. It made waves on the iTunes rap chart - pretty impressive considering they were also giving it away on their site.

Also impressive: Swifa and Iyeball manning synth and drums respectively for a stretch near the end. That segment wasn't as smooth as the string of would-be hits that opened the set ("Long Run," "Hard Sell" and "5000" among them), but it showed how much talent this crew has in reserve.