“He was really a man that had no fear.”
On June 28, like everyone else in the Columbus community, I received word that one of our most prolific figures passed away. Sheron Colbert, known by many as Nes Wordz, was taken from us far before we were any bit ready. It’s still really hard to comprehend, and I’m certainly not the authority on his life that his wife, four kids, or even the students he taught over at Columbus Arts & Technology Academy are.
I’m not a member of his extended family nor a part of his musical team over at Magna Media Group (shoutout to Soop). I’m just a friend. A friend who now regrets the amount of additional time I didn’t spend with Nes, but appreciates the moments I was granted with him during his time on this planet.
I think that’s the greatest thing about Nes Wordz, though. You didn’t have to know him that well to know how abundant his energy was. He was the type of guy who, if you told him you weren’t doing well, he’d make sure to check up on you constantly until things were getting better. If you ever did the slightest thing for him, he’d always remember it and remind you every subsequent time you saw him of how it changed his life for the better.
Sheron parlayed his kindness into action. He was a rogue character never afraid to speak his mind, but would always want to hear your opinion, even if it was polar opposite to his. Every time I had a deep conversation with him, I’d go away feeling better—as if life seemed clearer.
He told us to love one another, a message he’d often relay in his raps. Oh yeah, if I didn’t mention it already, Nes Wordz was and is one of the greatest emcees Columbus has ever witnessed. Although he was born in Toledo, it seemed like Nes had been a part of the Central Ohio community from the jump.
Last September, I sat down with Nes in what would sadly be our last official interview, in October’s issue of (614). At the time, he had dropped his last full-length album Stupid Genius about half a year prior to that and was just beginning his career as a teacher. He was also still grappling with the fact that his close friend MarShawn McCarrel had passed away just months before our conversation.
The last line of the eventual article I would write was a quote from Nes. He said, “I’m socially active in my community because I choose to be, not because it makes me look better as a rapper. I do it because I came up in an impoverished neighborhood my whole life. I do it because it makes me feel good, and like I’m doing my part.”
This was Nes Wordz in a nutshell. He was socially active aside from his music and teaching, but within music, he was our Tupac Shakur. He was a figure bigger than bars and hooks. He’d let you know what he thought about something, but always followed it up with “but that’s just my opinion” or “that’s just how I see things.”
At over six feet tall, Nes often stood over you but was never above you. That’s why he could talk his shit. That’s why you believed the compelling things he would say; because deep down he knew that you knew that he was a beautifully imperfect man. And he would let you know that every step of the way.
The last time I ever spoke to Sheron Colbert was just two weeks before he passed away. I was at an event at Avalon for (614) Day and participated in a podcast, ironically about Columbus hip-hop history. Before the discussion began Nes came up to me and told me how good life was for him. He had gotten through his first full year of teaching, a challenge he always questioned whether he could accomplish, but of course he nailed it. I told him that we needed to hang out more to which he agreed. Then, in true Nes form, he told me, “You’re an inspiration man.” I told him the same, and not only an inspiration for me, but everyone who’s ever crossed paths with him. We then parted ways.
You always question why things happen. I’m not necessarily a believer in fate, but I do appreciate the joys life gives me. Sheron Colbert’s life and lessons taught me, among other things, to appreciate the good in everyone. His famous saying was, “When was the last time you told a Black man you loved him?”
Well Nes, I love you. Hopefully we cross paths again in another life because there’s no amount of thanking you I can do for the positive affect you made on my current one. The first line of this piece is a quote you made about MarShawn, but many could say the same thing about you. You had no fear.
Rest in peace, my friend. •
To contribute to the memorial fund for Colbert, please visit gofundme.com/nes-wordz-funeral-memorial-fund.