Probable future Columbus mayor candidate Yaves releases EP ‘In Winters Ear’
If Yaves Ellis eventually ran for mayor of Columbus, Ohio, his fellow Columbusite Christian rapper Kambino thinks he would earn more than his vote.
“Truth be told, somewhere down the line, I could totally see [Yaves] running for mayor and getting it,” Kambino said.
Yaves, who released his latest EP In Winters Ear on Tuesday, is already on the Create Columbus Commission, a board of young professionals appointed by the major to think about issues that affect young people. He is the only artist on the board. Tyneisha Harden, director of communications for Mayor Michael Coleman, told Rapzilla that Yaves would have her vote.
“[Yaves] really cares about the community,” Harden said, “and that’s important for a politicians in government.”
Yaves is invested in Columbus more than the vast majority of entertainers are in their hometowns. It’s why, shortly after getting off the phone with Rapzilla, he met with political activist “Freeway” Rick Ross about reaching people caught up in gang life in Columbus.
Yaves, formerly known as Street Pastor, became active as a hip-hop artist at eight years old, but rapper and CEO of the record label Slingshot Media Group are far from his only roles. He regularly mentors youth, emcees events and guest speaks in Columbus. Yaves is also the director of public affairs and hosts the weekly show Any Given Sunday at Radio One Columbus, one of the largest radio conglomerates targeting urban listeners.
“Everybody knew Street Pastor whether you were a Christian or not,” Tres Carter, another Christian rapper from the city, said. “If you’re from Columbus, you knew who he was on some level. He was plugged into everything.”
Yaves is incredibly involved in Columbus because he loves it, but his prioritization of the city over music is also practical.
“Every day another artist comes out,” Yaves said. “When you look at the saturated market, when you look at the fact that people want music so quick — you can put out an album tomorrow and then two weeks later, somebody’s going to ask you, ‘When’s the next album coming out?’ The shelf life on music is definitely dwindling away. I want to build something that is longstanding, instead of being the popular guy for a month and a half.”
Yaves wants to build something longstanding with his music as well.
Tres Carter attended a panel discussion that involved Mayor Coleman and city council board members after the killing of Mike Brown. Yaves emceed. During the discussion, he addressed the influence of music in a fashion that left Carter inspired.
“I know a lot of people who think that music is the problem, but you got to look at music like a hammer,” Carter remembers Yaves saying. “The hammer itself isn’t bad. You can use it to build, but for so long, it’s been used to tear down. My goal is to change the mind frame of people to use music as a hammer to build up.”
Enter In Winters Ear.
Countless artists have uttered the phrase “it’s more than music” in their lifetimes. For Yaves, though, this could not be more sincere.
“For me, music is just a door opener,” he said. “It’s a just a way for me to get the message out there, and it’s a tool that God has given me to be able to use to get people’s attention.”
This is not to say Yaves, 28, is apathetic toward striving for excellence on the mic. No one raps for 20 years if they lack of a love for the art. And on In Winters Ear, Yaves believes he found a unique way to deliver his message.
“I wanted to make sure [In Winters Ear] was very authentic, very original and I touched on issues that may be taboo to some people. In Winters Ear touches on issues of racism and how we as believers should be very involved in the injustices that go on in the world, that we should stand up and talk about inequality and the lack of funds that are going into education in certain schools and that everything shouldn’t just be about, ‘Hey, come to church,’ but more so being about the church actually infiltrating the social fabric of America.”
Yohannan Terrell, a coworker of Yaves’ at Radio One, is confident that Yaves will accomplish this with In Winters Ear.
“I think today’s mainstream hip hop has really embraced ratchetness,” Terrell said, “just the negative things about hip hop and exploited that. There’s a twinkle of light that is coming from a lot of these artists like Yaves, Lecrae and Dee-1. The good thing about Yaves as an artist is he can still reach you with the music, but he actually has something to say.”
Yaves had attempted to tackle issues of social injustice long before he recorded In Winters Ear.
He marched for solidarity in Columbus after the Mike Brown and Eric Garner decisions. He hosted forums. He met with the mayor, police chief and other prominent figures in the city to help work toward solutions.
His game plan: build relationships within the community to harvest compassion.
“One of the biggest issues that we have to address is the fact that there’s no compassion,” Yaves said. “Jesus was always compassionate about those he was in contact with. I see a lot of believers who are on social networks are bringing up the issue of, ‘Well, he shouldn’t have had a gun, or he shouldn’t have fought back to the cop.’
“They talk about people as if they’re objects and not people. That’s somebody’s son. That’s somebody’s dad. That’s somebody’s brother that got killed. There even has to be compassion for the police officers who are involved in these kind of things because if we don’t have compassion for one another, then there’s no respect for somebody’s life … None of this stuff is going to change without compassion and love — none of it.”
Before In Winters Ear and the tragedies of 2014 happened, Columbus rappers Yaves, Christon Gray, Taelor Gray and B. Moses had performed on what they called the Hood Tour, in which they set up DJ booths and a couple speakers on the corners of inner-city neighborhoods. After a two-to-three hour concert that drew members of neighborhood, Gray remembers Yaves sharing why they had come — to share the gospel. Yaves, as usual, offered a biblical solution, even on his secular radio show, when social injustices were the center of national news last year.
“A lot of people who called me [on Any Given Sunday] were angry,” Yaves said. “They wanted to riot. They wanted do sit-ins, but you have to bring people back to, ‘What is this going to accomplish?’ Is it going to hurt more people at the end of the day?
“I do believe that racism still exists. I do believe that injustice does still exist, but I do believe that really the only cure for that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We can try to put in a lot of policies and that kind of stuff, but it does take the gospel to change.”
Yaves confirmed that he does one day want to run for mayor. If Columbus elects him, his message is unlikely to change, suggested Jordan Davis, a leader of the Create Columbus Commission.
“You couldn’t know Yaves without recognizing his faith,” Davis said.