Feature: Mekka Don

From the February 7, 2013 edition

What to make of a rapper whose backstory involves private high school at St. Francis DeSales, walking on to Ohio State’s football team, NYU law school and a six-figure salary at a high-powered firm?

Mekka Don would probably answer: “Be who you are, love what you love, do what you do, never apologize for being you.” So goes the title track from Paradise, the EP the Columbus native (born Emeka Onyejekwe) just released with Cleveland’s DJ E-V and Columbus producer extraordinaire A.U.

He’ll perform those songs Monday at Skully’s in a show sponsored by The Source. He’ll also run through his Gordon Gee-approved Buckeye anthem “Let’s Go (O-H-I-O)” at the OSU-Indiana basketball game Sunday. Last year he was named an mtvU Freshman, the network’s designation for rising stars. It seems Mekka Don’s career is gaining traction a half-decade after he left his gig at New York firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges to pursue his passion for hip-hop.

“You can imagine the ridicule that came from every side,” Mekka said. “From the attorney side they’re like, ‘OK, this guy’s crazy.’ From the hip-hop side they’re like, ‘Who the f--- is this lawyer guy who thinks he’s going to rap?’”

Paradise came about last September after Mekka met A.U. at the Ohio Hip Hop Awards. Mekka was transfixed with some unorthodox A.U. beats: EDM-informed tracks built on samples from Coldplay, Ellie Goulding and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

“It was the kind of music that allowed me to have high energy but also be thoughtful,” Mekka said. “I do respect the fact that the beats have to be on point and a lot of times the beat’s going to be what catches people.”

That’s true, but Paradise also shows a rapper nimble and charismatic enough to carry the load. He might have what it takes to make a living with this stuff. In the meantime, he picks up legal work on the side to pay the bills, a far cry from the drug-dealing rapper stereotype.

“It’s kind of turned into my hustle,” Mekka said. “Whatever they’re doing to fund their career, that’s how I look at law right now.”