With a final album, 'Fin,' the long-time rapper readies for life's next stage

The most recent album from rapper C10 begins at the ending, kicking off with the title track “Fin.” The song, which finds the MC reflecting on his decades-spanning career, closes with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek parting shot. “Autobiography of a rapper who never made it,” raps C10 as a means of signing off.

“I say it jokingly. A lot of the lyrics on the album are very sarcastic … but I do feel like that, yes,” said C10, born Chad Tennant 38 years ago, who will host an album release party at Victory's Live on Saturday, Jan. 27. “At the same time, I don't see that in a negative way. We had opportunities that never panned out, but, the autobiography of a rapper that never made it, I embrace that.”

C10 started rapping in earnest in fifth grade, beginning to take the craft more seriously as he entered high school at Walnut Ridge, where he looked up to upperclassmen such as Copywrite and Camu Tao, who were already making waves as part of the hip-hop collective MHz.

“One day, my brother picked me up and Camu was in the car. We were riding around the city listening to a lot of [Tao's] music and instrumentals, and we were all freestyling. I was intimidated to freestyle because I looked at the MHz like they were rap gods,” said C10, who chalked up part of his hesitancy to Tao's notoriously sharp tongue (Camu never shied from telling another MC that they were trash). “But I rapped and he told me I was good. … Once he told me, ‘Dude, you're dope,' that was it for me. I never looked back.”

In the decades since, C10 has experienced close calls, nearly landing a label deal around the time he released his second project, Cut the Check, an experience that temporarily jaded him to the industry. “It really did become dark to the point where you start not liking music, or creating music,” he said.

Beginning in 2012, C10 started to kick around the idea of stepping away from the microphone for good, starting work on Fin, then hitting pause once his coursework at Ohio State University intensified. He's scheduled to graduate next semester with a degree in history, and he plans to teach in Columbus Public Schools, or, more specifically, Columbus Africentric Early College School, which was founded by his father, Charles Tennant.

But after Nes Wordz heard a few early demos, the late rapper urged C10 to finish work on the project. “Nes asked me, ‘What the hell are you doing? Why haven't you released this yet?'” he said. Following Nes' June 2017 death, C10 hunkered down to finish the album, dedicating the release, in part, to the rapper's memory.

C10 attributes his decision to retire from making music (he'll continue to manage artists and will perform live from time to time) to shifting priorities and a desire to take on new challenges, including mentoring younger people as an educator — a role he sees as incongruent with his approach to hip-hop.

“There are times I talk about social issues or things of that nature, but with a majority of my music I'm just having fun, so I thought it might be best for me to exit out,” he said. “I don't want to have any negative content out there and then [get in the classroom] and try to inspire.”

Besides, at age 38, late nights at the club don't hold the same allure as in those early days.

“When we were younger we could shut the club down,” he said. “I'm at the point of my life where I'm ready for the dog and the picket fence. Someone else can go out to the club at night and perform. You can have that.”