J armell Carson, Kyle Smith, and Daryl Henderson have each had a hand in shaping Ohio hip hop over the last two decades or so. Carson, known as Citoak, is a member of Watusi Tribe, which formed in 1996. Smith, who performs as Kyle David, has rapped professionally since 2000 when he was part of the internationally recognized experimental hip hop group, Five Deez. And for 14 years, Henderson, known as DJ Mr. Rare Groove, toured with Columbus MC and Rhymesayers Entertainment recording artist, Blueprint.
But since 2017, the trio has combined their talents to make up Sons of Silverton, named in allegiance to Kyle’s and Carson’s native community northeast of Cincinnati. Earlier this month, they got together in person for the first time in a year to perform their first virtual concert with a limited live audience of about 25 guests at Northside’s Urban Artifact for the launch of their second album, God God Us.
Pre-pandemic, their last show was a jam-packed, high energy set opening for KRS-One in 2019. In contrast, their recent set was more subdued.
“It was different,” says Carson, who is now the only local resident of the group. (Smith calls Columbus home and Henderson recently moved 45 minutes south of Cincinnati to Sparta, Kentucky.) “But to actually have people in the building and be able to do a little bit of call and response with them felt good.”
For Smith, performing mostly virtual reminded him of Japanese audiences who give almost no feedback that they enjoy the performance. “They sit there and look at you like they’re at the [symphony],” he says. “And then they stand up and clap at the end of the set, and you’re like, ‘Oh, you liked it? I thought you hated us!’ ”
“I had been looking forward to it,” Henderson adds. “We actually wrapped God God Us almost a year ago, and then we couldn’t perform it.”
The concept album derived from a brainstorming session, where Smith says they talked about the impact God has in their lives.
“It generated as we were discussing COVID and the fallout, and how everybody was responding to the instant change in our lifestyle and the deaths of friends,” he notes. “We came to the conclusion that at the end of the day, God got us all.”
For the album, S.O.S. picked producers connected to Cincinnati’s sound. Among the eight featured are Sal Dali (who produced the title track), Brickbeats and Mr. Dibbs. As S.O.S.’s music director, Henderson provides scratches for the album and produces the single “Scammers,” which calls out rappers who chase fame on social media.
The soul of the album comes from the emcees’ reverence for their community. “Silverton’s a Place” shows their desire to see their ‘hood known among hip hop landmarks like Compton. And on “Don’t,” produced by CJ The Cynic, Carson raps:
“Ohio is the state, Cincinnati is the city/
Silverton is the place that showed me the good and the gritty.”
“This is where we come from,” he says. “That’s what developed a lot of who we are.”
(It’s also the birthplace of two Hall-of-Fame legends—Barry Larkin, former Cincinnati Reds shortstop from 1986 to 1994—and Roger Staubach, who was a Dallas Cowboys quarterback.)
“Growing up, we had elders in the neighborhood giving good encouragement,” Carson continues, recalling adults who watched him mature. “ ‘I remember your little knuckle headed butt was running around here—now look at you. Good to see you doing right.’ ”
Sons of Silverton perform virtually this Friday, May 21 at Cincinnati Fire Museum.