Columbus rapper Co City takes a stroll through the past with his debut solo album

‘Coming to Grips,’ first teased in the summer of 2019, releases digitally on Friday, April 9

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive
Co City

Co City does a lot of his writing in his head during walks, whether in one of the nearby Metro Parks or alone at home on a treadmill, saying that the activity has a way of quieting outside thoughts, allowing him to more fully lose himself in the music.

“Those are very peaceful settings for me, so it’s easy to write songs,” Co City said by phone recently. “I don’t know how to explain it, but certain places in the city are very prevalent in my life, so when I’m searching for something, I’ll visit them. I’ll walk past my grandmother’s house, or walk past my aunt’s house, or I’ll just go to a park and sit on the bench. I like to see when the sun sets, because it reminds me of my childhood … when me and my brother used to play baseball. Certain places just bring back certain memories for me.”

In a way, it could be said that the Columbus-born rapper has spent much of the last couple of years walking through his past, composing songs that confront everything from the deaths of his grandma and aunt, who passed away less than three months apart in late 2017 and early 2018, to overcoming alcoholism and occasional struggles with depression. “I been through the dark, I’m trying to find the light,” he raps on the shadowy, percussive “Barry Larkin,” which opens with Co falling to pieces at the site of his grandmother’s casket.

Ultimately, though, the picture that emerges on his solo debut, Coming to Grips, which releases digitally on Friday, April 9, is a survivor story, with Co City making multiple references to aging (he raps about getting older and grayer on “Cortex Flow”) while simultaneously refusing to settle down. On “Billman,” which packs decades into a surprisingly relaxed 90 seconds, Co City raps that he’s “still getting better,” while he offers that he's forever "ready for the fight" on the richly soulful  “Cortex Flow."

The MC traced this deep-set resilience to his mother, whom he described as “the strongest person I know.” 

“We’re a family of fighters; it’s bred in our DNA,” Co City said. “One thing we don’t do in our family, and my mother and I joke about it all the time, but we don’t give up. We could be in a game of basketball, down by 40 points, and we’re not going to give up. We’re going to keep going until that final buzzer sounds.”

Co City has addressed these weightier personal subjects on past recordings as part of the long-running, still-active rap group the 3rd Power. But with this new record, word of which first surfaced two years ago, the MC steps out on his own for the first time, recounting a lifetime of trials, tribulations and successes as a means of clearing the deck for whatever might be next. (Not that the rapper’s 3rd Power brothers are completely absent here; Rashad produced the EP and the whole crew turns up to assist on “Millionaire,” which closes out the album by bringing Co City back to his beginnings.)

“For me, I definitely put all my cards on the table, put them where I need them to be, and now I can pull a new deck of cards out,” he said. “I knew what I wanted to name the album early on, and Coming to Grips was just the perfect title for me. I’m coming to terms with who I am as a person, with being a strong Black man in America, with trying to be a leader, a father and a husband in a world that will try to drag you down.”

Not that it ever really stood a chance.

Watch the video for "Billman" below.