Sensory Overload: Turkey Jam

From the November 29, 2012 edition

Columbus hip-hop fans could have come up with lots of reasons not to show up to Elevator Music’s inaugural Turkey Jam last Saturday night. Maybe they were exhausted or passed out after Ohio State’s win over Michigan earlier that day. Maybe they were at the Yo Gotti show at The Bluestone. Maybe they thought to themselves, “Damn, it’s cold outside! I’m going to stay home and sip hot chocolate by the fireplace!” (I can’t front; I feel that way sometimes. If only I had a fireplace...)

Whatever the reason, Skully’s wasn’t packed Saturday. But it wasn’t a ghost town either; there was just enough of an audience that when something amazing happened, a crowd started to gather, while mediocrity caused the numbers to disperse. It was the most natural kind of meritocracy.

The room filled up the most for the night’s headliner, Rashad, the triple threat producer-singer-rapper whose album Museum is either slept-on or a sleeper hit depending on who you ask. He’s had a few career false starts, but his ace production for Stalley has him back in the national conversation.

After veteran DJ Krate Digga spun a bunch of Rashad’s hottest productions, the performer grabbed the mic and began showing off his formidable talents — the effortlessly smooth voice, the unmistakable production style, the brimming charisma. He also managed to turn a few memorable lyrics, whether nodding to his own prodigious childhood (“Creatin' songs in my manger, before we were teenagers”) or acknowledging the awkward station of women in hip-hop (“When did our sisters become our bitches?").

Rashad wasn’t the only talent on hand. Fellow R&B singer Ella Star sang well enough to compete on The X Factor, though good luck getting a song about sexting on network TV. Hodgie Street and a shorthanded version of Luxury League showed off solid range and proved the value of actually rapping rather than just shouting along to a pre-recorded track. (Got that, Ricky Toon?)

What else? Wallabe had great verbal dexterity even if his microphone-as-gun metaphor fell a little flat. Young Wise proved a master of self-branding, but “throwing up gang signs” sucks all the creativity out of Future’s “Same Damn Time.”

All in all, good show. Let’s do it again next year?