Locals: Metro

  • Photo by Meghan Ralston
From the February 28, 2013 edition

A decade’s passed since the Columbus rap group S.A. Smash debuted its Definitive Jux party album Smashy Trashy and became another of this city’s underground rap successes.

It might be painfully obvious to state, but a lot’s changed since. So much, in fact, that Smash rapper Metro wasn’t even aware of the anniversary.

“I didn’t even think about it until someone told me the other day. Time flies, man,” he said during an interview last week at Used Kids Records, where he and his friend, producer-rapper Camu Tao, the other half of Smash, often hung out.

Chief among those changes: Tao died in 2008 from a two-year battle with lung cancer. Beyond that, the tours, the move to New York City, the rumored partnerships with rap legends like Ghostface Killah, the record deal with iconic label Def Jux — all ancient history.

Metro’s toured with Mr. Lif and performed spot shows here and there since, but mostly he’s been lying low, practicing his flow and writing. (“It’s one of those things you have to stay on the sharp end, and I have been.”)

That’ll all change soon. Metro’s about eight songs deep into his debut album and will headline this week’s Block Watch at Carabar, a quarterly Columbus hip-hop showcase.

The new material, Metro said, is heavy on synths, light on samples. It’s got the classic cadences — “crunchy” is how he described it — that Camu used to dig. The lyrical content is darker, less fun than Smashy Trashy, but it’s also got some lighthearted and playful moments, like an ode to his son and sisters.

Part of that change comes from living in the city, a life Metro calls “crime and consequence.”

“(The songs are) just talking thirsty thug in the neighborhood,” he said. “Broke, got a baby mama and I got this piece. What you want to do with it?”

The changes will be surprising for some, but not for others.

“People who know me, know me,” he said. “If they know me, they know what I’m about. Some people are like, ‘Oh, Smash? I was about that s---.’ Now, ‘Oh, Metro? I didn’t expect to hear this.’”

The funny thing is, neither did Metro.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said. “Not really something I pushed for, but I’m glad. If I would have come out with an album then, I wouldn’t have been as confident with the new s--- and the way I can rhyme (now). No regrets at all. I’m happy with the way things turned out.”