A film about Northwest hip-hop from 2000
Parallel To Hell
Oldominion dropped their first single “Don’t Kill Your Radio” in 1999. The song and its two B-sides introduced the group as full of relentless literary angst, intent on capturing wide swaths of thesaurus-rap territory. In 2000, they put out an underground CDr album titled Book Of Fury, and also dropped this vinyl single, “Parallel To Hell.” Compelling jacket art was created by Barfly, and the front depicts a ghostly woman in a red dress. The way the record label has a punched out hole in the middle of the Oldominion logo’s “d” is a nice touch.
The A-side “Parallel To Hell” features performances by JFK, Pale Soul, Sleep, and Smoke, who alternate filling in the lines of a conceptual dialogue. One highlight of “Parallel To Hell” is Portland rapper Syndel with her needle-sharp verbal style. The chorus refers to the woman in the red dress seen on the cover, “pretending she’s a damsel in distress.” Is it all symbolism and metaphor? Oldominion isn’t going to tell you, they are too deeply invested in their art for the listener’s interpretation to matter.
Side B is “Serenade To Silence,” which includes the four rappers from “Parallel To Hell” and adds Destro, L’Swhere, Mako, and Onry Ozzborn for a total of eight artists. The gentle production on “Serenade To Silence” belies the dark, introspective imagery that accompanies the song’s lyrics. For example, “Now that I’m over the worst part of the pain, the sanctuary crumbles, I brace myself for the secondary tumble, down a black cavity, depravity…” Oldominion was among the most purely artistic and non-commercial rap groups that I can remember, and they deserve credit for doing the actual heavy lifting required for universe-building. “Don’t Kill Your Radio” and “Parallel To Hell” don’t really sound like anything else.
Just as this single was spreading through the country, Oldominion was putting the finishing touches on their massive proper debut album titled One. With so many members in the crew, and so many cities included in their grasp, Oldominion capitalized on their position and infiltrated every nook and cranny of the Washington and Oregon rap game. Even today in 2023, their name lives on among the major crews to ever come from the Northwest. Written by Novocaine132