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The Mash Tape

DJ blesOne began making hip-hop mixtapes in the mid-1990s, and due to his rapid switch-ups and high energy drum machine work, he quickly became a regular DJ for breakdancing events hosted by the Massive Monkees crew. For almost a decade DJ blesOne rocked dancefloors and b-boy competitions. Then in 2004, he formed a rap crew called Mash Hall along with Christine Supreme and Ronnie Voice, and they dropped a six-song EP titled Mash Hall which caught some major buzz. The following year DJ blesOne was at a crossroads. Should he keep making mixtapes, or was it time for him to let go of that comfort zone and make the jump to being a producer and rapper?

He decided to do both. First, in early 2005 he dropped Straight Outta Westcoast, a mixtape with three original Mash Hall songs dropped into the mix. According to blesOne, Straight Outta Westcoast is, “My favorite mixtape I ever made, featuring the first Mash Hall songs ever.” Those early three Mash Hall tracks were “Tired Of MCs,” (which later became “Introdestruction” on The Mash Tape) “This Is A Warning,” and “Straight Outta Westcoast.”

Then later that year Mash Hall released The Mash Tape. The first half of The Mash Tape consists of about a dozen Mash Hall tracks, followed by remixes of ten mainstream rap hits from artists including Nas, Mobb Deep, and Kool G Rap. While Straight Outta Westcoast clearly still fit the mixtape format, The Mash Tape marked an evolution for this new group called Mash Hall. It was clear that they had songwriting talent, and blesOne was a master of roof-on-fire, disaster-porn beats. Ronnie Voice and blesOne combined to create a cinematic universe where Mash Hall reigns over all others. They mortar unsafe levels of humor, urgency, and boastfulness into a synchronized cemented brick wall of sound. Mash Hall sounds like no other group before or since. This is music that should have been blasting aboard the infamous “Furthur” bus, and The Mash Tape reminds me of the berserk energy conjured by the Merry Pranksters back in the 1960s.

The Mash Tape is a huge step forward from 2004’s Mash Hall E.P. There are hundreds of random laugh out loud quotables to discover here, “Introdestruction” contains one of my favorites, “My name is Bruce Illest I’m an underground legend/Every four years I get a 97 Legend/It’s my girl’s car okay, but I consider it a present/Yo she asked me for the keys I said c’mon stop messin.” Bring some fun into your life, and get The Mash Tape! (Written by Novocaine132.)

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Freewheelin'

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Common Market

The Stranger picked Common Market as one of the “6 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2005” saying:

As Common Market, RA Scion and DJ Sabzi released a CD that is rock solid. Unlike Framework’s hypercreative Hello World, which bubbles and froths wonderfully all over the place, Common Market is clean, clear, and shaped by precious patience. Very little is wasted on this CD—which was recorded over four months in Sabzi’s Beacon Hill studio. Every beat and its matching rap is the product of what DJ Premier famously called “deep concentration.” DJ Sabzi and RA Scion first worked together on two tracks on RA Scion’s Live & Learn, and soon after the CD was released the two decided to renew and widen their relationship to a full-length CD. In the way that Mobb Deep’s single “Shook Ones Pt. II” was expanded into the greatest rap CD of the ’90s, Hell on Earth, Live and Learn‘s “The Water” was expanded into Common Market.

“RA Scion is older than me, and he has a style that really comes out of the early ’90s,” explains Sabzi. “Not that it’s out of date or anything. It allowed me to think about hip-hop from a historical perspective. I had to mine sounds and samples that could work with his flow. RA Scion is a conscious rapper and [the early ’90s] was the period of conscious rapping.”

If white rappers are to make a real contribution to hip-hop, it is to connect the music with the global, anti-capitalist movement. And this is precisely what RA Scion does so impressively. For him, it’s not about “elephants and asses” but getting down with “activists”—those who were on the streets in 1999 protesting WTO, those who are against the current war in Iraq, who are against corporate exploitation of Third World labor. Hip-hop must be plugged into these new, post-fordist revolutionary flows.

Although his knowledge of rapping is impeccable—as demonstrated on the CD’s concluding track “Doors”—RA Scion’s moralizing can get a bit heavy at times. In “Every Last One,” Common Market’s best track, he states that the world would be a better place if we changed liquor stores into art galleries. (The problem with this proposition is there’s more good wine in this city than there is good art, and adding new galleries is not going to change that fact.) But then again, RA Scion descends from a long and vital hip-hop tradition of teaching the youth (“for me emcee means mentor the child,” he raps on “Doors”), which is why his hero is KRS-One, the father of hip-hop moralizing (“I don’t eat goat or ham or hamburger, because for me that’s self-murder”—from “My Philosophy,” the record that tops RA Scion’s eternal hip-hop list).

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Ame Instrumentals Vol. 1

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The Long March EP

The Stranger picked The Long March EP as one of the “Top 6 Hip-Hop Albums of 2005,” saying:

To end the excellent year, Blue Scholars released an EP with eight melancholy tracks that match the mood of late fall, with its denuded trees and low grey clouds. Against Sabzi’s slow and soulful beats, Geologic digs deep into his life, his troubled upbringing, his education, his labors, and his anger with the wage (slave) system. Unlike the duo’s positive debut, Blue Scholars, there’s now a hint of defeat in Geologic’s voice and raps, as he tries to figure out ways to overcome capitalist exploitation and unify the realities of workers in Peru (for example) with the realities of workers in South Seattle. He wants to topple what Public Enemy once called “the power,” but how in the world can this happen? In the song “La Botella,” Geologic goes to a bar and drowns these difficulties in happy-hour drinks. For this reason, Blue Scholar’s sophisticated brand of music, gloom, booze, and radical politics can be described as Maker’s Marxism.

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Reprogram

The Stranger picked Reprogram as one of the “6 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2005” saying:

Karim, Destro, and DJ Scene are Boom Bap Project, and like Grayskul they’re signed to the Minneapolis-based Rhymesayers label. Reprogram is Boom Bap Project’s first full-length CD, and it was designed not to disappoint. Reprogram is packed with contributions from the best in the local and national scene. It has production work from Seattle’s big three: Jake One, Vitamin D, and Bean One. Mr. Hill and Jumbo the Garbage Man (of Lifesavas) also supplied beats, and Gift of Gab (Blackalicious) and Rakaa Iriscience (Dilated Peoples) supplied raps. This record serves as a model for the kind of hip-hop professionalism and ambition that can open the wide world to our mid-sized city.

Boom Bap Project released a fantastic track on Reprogram that exactly compressed a city’s dominant economic mode into a pure code of soul. The track is called “Reprogram,” it was produced by the king of local beat designers, Vitamin D, and brings near-perfect expression to an age, a city that’s dominated by software programmers. (L.A.’s Styles of Beyond have done something similar with their city, by making hip-hop that sounds like big-budget movies.) The music on “Reprogram” is slightly melancholy, melodic, with sound effects that imagine the experience of being inside the World Wide Web, and raps that demand, by reprogramming, the transformation of software consumers into revolutionary subjects. “Reprogram” is the crowning achievement of this album.

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Waitin'

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Funk For Fun / Inside Information

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Sexy Beast

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Civilized

From 2005, this is the debut full-length from vitriolic Seattle emcee Ricky Pharoe, also know as Art Vandelay, Greasy Earl, and more. Co-billed with beatmaker Budo, Pharoe raps articulately over the layers of samples and beats, wastes no time getting his point across.

Ricky evidently has a lot to get off his chest here, and he addresses each gripe head-on without fear of critique or retribution. The commercialization of hip-hop is addressed, as is the vapidity of American capitalism, in abundance. Mixed in thoroughly is a bold-faced pro-sobriety stance, a deep-seated hatred of club culture and the misogyny it feeds off of, and general disgust with the hoops one must jump through to traditionally be successful in the arts in this country. It’s rare that an emcee has the guts to preach his ideals when those ideals are so outside the norm – not only is he anti-club and anti-drug, but he openly mocks those who partake in those lifestyles, both of which play a big part in hip-hop culture.

Overshadowing the entire 53-minute rant that is Civilized is Pharoe’s frequent references to the Illuminati conspiracy, which plays a role in everything else he expounds upon, a force in control of the world’s governments just as much as it controls our thoughts and actions. I’ve never read Robert Anton Wilson, or Behold A Pale Horse, or any conspiracy theorists, so I can’t support or discount what he’s saying with any authority, and I’m guessing much of what Ricky’s preaching is lost on me. But obviously, he slung quite an undertaking over his shoulder with this record; a record that never quite has enough time or space to plumb the proper depths, but still manages to compel the listener.

I imagine he’s probably made himself a few enemies in the process of his career as an emcee; but as a cohesive, clever, and articulate statement, this album’s successes far outweigh its shortcomings. Pharoe is a white underground rapper with a dense, articulate flow and a penchant for self-exploratory poetry, so comparisons to Slug and Aesop Rock are unfortunately unavoidable. And yes, the comparison is somewhat warranted, as all three lyricists examine hip-hop from a personal perspective and capture images through the lens of an outsider.

However, Pharoe separates himself from the others with his subject matter and his unapologetic stance on the issues he tackles. He’s gutsy with his various interconnected foci; on the commercialization and dumbing down of hip-hop, which has been a subject of controversy in the past when coming from white mouthpieces in hip-hop. (Remember DJ Shadow’s “Why hip-hop Sucks In ’96”?) Ricky takes his critique several steps further, citing specific and often-reverent examples in popular hip-hop culture, mocking them to pieces, and beating them with a squeaky dog toy into submission. He manages not to sound like a prude with his anti-drug stance, due to his relating his own chilling drug-addled past. As much as he rails against the backward capitalist system this country employs, he readily admits taking advantage of it whenever he can. This gives him some credence; he can genuinely critique these things because he’s been there.

Although the mainstream is in the hot seat, Ricky’s underground compatriots also fall victim to his particular knife, as well as bonafide hip-hop legends. The most poignant example falls on the apocalyptic track “The Not So Great”, where Ricky both tells his own story as well as that of a man much like himself, aware of the sickness that infests his world. But this character chooses to ignore the honorable person within and gives in to temptation. Most effectively, and also most brazenly, he lifts the famous line from The Wu’s “Method Man” as his chorus (“I got myself a blunt, I got wide owl dub and I’m about to go get lifted. I’m about to go get lifted. I got myself a forty, I got myself a shorty and I’m about to go and stick it, yes I’m about to go and stick it”). The intent is blurred, with only the vehemence in Ricky’s voice to show that he’s passionate about what he speaks even when he borrows from another and the philosophy is on another planet, but tantalizingly within reach all the same.

Although masked in self-depreciation and humor, Civilized is an articulate work of anger and frustration. He’s targeting the world Pharoe has been placed in, and often specifically at his very audience – the drunk club-goers and stoners that are too busy listening to themselves bullshit to hear his music and his message of the peril surrounding us. I get the feeling this is music from an artist who’s driven to orate, and receives little, if any, satisfaction in the process.

Despite the laugh-out-loud moments on the record, I don’t hear Pharoe smiling during his delivery. Besides Budo on beats, Pharoe does it pretty much by himself here, with the exception of in-line contributions from PacNW heroes Billy the Fridge and Jewels Hunter. After this record, he put out a collaborative effort with the stylistic master Tru-ID, then released a couple of funny-as-fuck online EPs before resurfacing as Art Vandelay. His new album under that moniker, Face Tattoo, is dope. But this is where you should start. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Preludes... Diaries of A Mad

Khazm is one of Seattle’s biggest hip-hop movers and shakers. He’s a true hip-hop scholar and activist. He’s a performer both solo and with his crew Cyphalliance, as well as being in the super-group The Building Project with Dume 41, Specs One, and Khingz. His grasp reaches much further into hip-hop culture, as he is a co-founder of the MAD Krew production company, as well as being a co-host of Zulu Radio. Most impressively, he founded 206 Zulu, the Universal Zulu Nation branch here in Seattle. He was even awarded a community leadership award from Mayor Nickels! If this ain’t a career steeped in hip-hop, I don’t know what is.

This 12″ is a stark and heart-wrenching testament to Khazm’s own personal resolve and strength in the face of adversity. Recorded at the University of Washington Hospital by fellow MAD Krew affiliate and 206 hip-hop guru Gabriel Teodros, “Life Line” cuts to the quick. You can’t help but tune in and stay riveted until the end. “Rhyme Artist” isn’t as intense, perhaps thankfully, but it’s truly a dope track that is made even more dope by appearances from King Kamonzi and DJ Scene. Sadly, this 12″ only provides those two tracks in their vocal versions, but in addition, “Buddafly” and “Summertime”, presumably off Khazm’s full length, are included as well as the instrumental versions of the vocal tracks provided. This is a 206 hip-hop document that is as important and crucial as it is riveting and entertaining. Beats and lyrics by the powerhouse known as Khazm. 2005 ish, do not sleep. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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The Long Awaited Mega EP

Here’s a rare vinyl pressing of Specswizard’s The Long Awaited Mega EP from 2005. It’s a sample-heavy release, but it’s all analog, with no computers or quantization, so everything’s a little squishy. This music swings. On the first side, “Unusual” breathes new life into a famous Tom Jones sample, while “Finer Things” samples a harpsichord from a Bach fugue, and then reverses it. The lyrics try to convince you that next year when he’s finally “making all kinds of dough” that he’ll finally be that classy dude. It’s towards the end of this track, when Specs starts repeating “H2O” that you notice there’s a bit of Jenga happening: On the second side is a short track called “H2O,” and it’s a long roll-call of local 2005-era hip-hop greats: Jake One, Silver Shadow D, Wordsayer, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Nasty Nes, and more. My fav track, “Concrete,” is also on side two. It’s a deceptively funky number, one that finds its head-bobbing grove after a short burn-in period. There are also two instrumentals (of “Unusual” and “Concrete”) to close out the vinyl. They just don’t make ‘em like they used to.

Here’s another take:

Back when I lived in the city, I used to see Specs lurking around Capitol Hill now and again. Tall, dressed in the Northwest signature strata of thrift-score layers, seemingly taller even due to his lankiness, with nappy hair and a Fu Manchu mustache, the man struck an immediate image: instantly memorable, a little off-kilter, but with everything impeccably in its place. The same can be seen in his visual artworks and heard here in his music and poetry. The man is an artist, let there be no doubt, but moreover, you could say HE is art, and his work is just an extension of the man. In everything I’ve ever encountered regarding him, there is a rock-solid deliberateness and a deep sense of craft. Listen to any of his records, it’s easy to hear if you’re looking for it. Just the fact that he makes all his own beats, and has few, if any, guests is a testament to his unique vision. And let there be no doubt, Specs has a vision, regarding hip-hop and most likely beyond, and he has no interest in diluting it or becoming more mainstream. I get the feeling he really doesn’t care if you feel what he’s doing or not. It just has to come out; he just has to lay it down. Not that his music is inaccessible at all. It may be rough and scratchy (purposefully of course), but the music Specs makes is instantly memorable, with unanticipated hooks and steady, head-nod-ic beats. His vocal delivery is likewise steady, mellow, confident, and immediately likable. And no other release of his demonstrates this like this one: 2005’s The Long Awaited Mega EP. From the intro track “North Again”, to its closing Reprise “H2O” this vinyl is the smoothest and most even Specs has ever put down. The signature off-kilter beats, vinyl pops, and tape hiss present in all his music are copiously heard here as well, but the noise is curbed a little, and the layers of sound go deeper and sound cleaner… Thanks to engineer Bean One, I’d imagine. “North Again” is a fitting opener, with its low organ loop, sustained synth note, and rain and bong hits in the background. Specs waxes over the sporadic beat, laying down who and what he’s about. “It’s all future with the outlaw Buddha,” he speaks quietly about, and probably to himself, before launching into a name-check of many of his NW hip-hop compatriots, that continues until the song fades out (the list continues with the fade-in of “H20” on side B). The most frenetic track, and also the most difficult to listen to, is the follow-up to the hypnotic opener. “Unusual” features Stymie, Specs’ hype man, (who Charles Mudede says is the size of a G.I. Joe) doing what he does over a short, hiccuping track, and is probably placed in the coveted 2nd spot on the record to keep the listener on his toes and guessing. “Regular Ish” follows, which has to be one of the most infectious tracks Specs has ever made (and also, at two minutes long, one of the most criminally short). Somewhere between Paul Horn and Omid, the song is a heavy, Doc Marten-stomping, psychedelic celebration. Perhaps the most standard song in Specs entire catalog, “Finer Things”, is his take on the classic hip-hop cliche about blowing up, making money, and spending it on his girl, except when I listen to this, the personal nature of his music makes me feel like he’s talking in the mirror here. Side two opens with the sinister Atari-instrumental “2k5”, before breaking in with the seriously danceable low-fi masterpiece “Concrete”. The music sounds like it’s coming from a film strip (remember watching those slide shows in elementary school? I’m dating myself here); even the drums sound empty and warbly, but I swear nothing has ever been more groovy. I could put this on loop and listen all day. If I could dance worth a damn, I’d do that, too. “H20” follows, and acts as the bookend to the album, followed by instrumentals of “Unusual” and “Concrete”. All told the EP is just over 24 minutes in length, but what a strong set of songs it is! I can’t believe he limited this to only 500 copies. After this smooth, relatively clean-sounding record–an aesthetic in common with its predecessor, Return of the Artist–Specs turned over a couple of pages and came back deliberately more psychedelic and spaced-out for the incredible Original Space Neighbors album (under the alias Mic Mulligan and S. Future). His following work has delved even more into the abstract, rough, scratchy, well-worn sound, which fits the man perfectly. Listening to his aged loops and his whispered delivery, it’s obvious he wants the listener to cue in and be explicitly aware of the history behind the sound, the history of the art of hip-hop as he sees it, and the history of the man presenting it. After being in the industry for more than twenty years, Specs is the rarest of cats: one that has consistently stayed true to his vision, and kept his signature sound, while constantly changing and ever-progressing. Perhaps he accomplished this because he never subscribed to a particular genre or niche in hip-hop. Specs One has always just sounded like Specs One. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Search For The Cure

The Stranger picked Search For The Cure as one of the “6 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2005” saying:

Cancer Rising’s Search for the Cure represents a clear break from Seattle’s hip-hop continuum. Grayskul can be traced all the way back to the mid-’90s, to the political gloom of Black Anger; Boom Bap Project can be traced back to Source of Labor; Framework can be traced back to Kid Sensation (and also Criminal Nation). No such link exists for the rappers Judas, Gatsby (AKA Larry Mizell Jr.), and DJ Tiles One, who make up Cancer Rising. A big reason for this is the music itself, which was produced by Manat MacLeod and Matt Wong, the Defkidz.

“When we started,” explains MacLeod, “we thought it would be quick and simple, but then it got more creative. I would come up with crazy stuff and [the rappers] would match it. I had the green light to do whatever I wanted. And the reason why the record sounds unusual is that I don’t listen to hip-hop anymore. I love hip-hop. I love the Def Jux stuff and the Roots, but the music is not adventurous. What I’m listening to is the Flaming Lips, stuff like the Secret Machines, and I took that to the music side, where I was coming up with beats.” The rock element in Search for the Cure is strong but not enough to make it a rock record; it’s still solid hip-hop. And hip-hop has always taken large chunks from rock, reggae, classical music—anything that worked with what Q-Tip famously called “that old boom bap.”

“Local producers like Vitamin D and Jake One are my favorites,” MacLeod explains, “but I decided to pay my respects to them by doing something totally different.”

Here’s another take:

Search For The Cure is the second album from Cancer Rising, and it picks up where their debut album, Sippin’ Music left off two years earlier. The group gives you more of that raw NW hip hop, and at the same time unabashedly continues its explorations into rock and roll. “Pocket Check” and “Run” are two high-energy examples of their signature sound, exploding with power moments and pure fun. Judas and Gatsby both reveal very personal self-observations in slower tracks like “Mama’s Ashes,” “Time And Place,” and the album’s title track, with emotional confessions and therapeutic breakthroughs happening right in front of us. “Play It Again” and “Dedicated” each has a carefree, effortless quality with a sprinkle of summertime and rap block-party nostalgia. The album’s finest moments come courtesy of “Stand Up” and the sleeper hit, “Scenery.” “Stand Up” bounces with peppy keys and horns, punctuated by the intelligent wordplay of these two talented emcees. “Scenery” could easily be one of the top hip-hop/rap tracks to ever come from Seattle. It’s the definition of feel-good music, a warm glow that you can feel in your soul. Search For The Cure is fully grown-up and Cancer Rising deserved all the praise they received for this now-classic album. (Written by Novocaine132.)

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Hello World

The Stranger picked Hello World as one of the “6 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2005” saying:

Framework is the street name for Keith Russell. Hello World is his debut CD, and it stands as this year’s highest achievement in hip-hop. Not since Silent Lambs Project’s Soul Liquor has there been a recording that erupts with so much creativity—in both senses of the word: innovation and procreation. There are 20 tracks packed into this CD, and all are rich, thick, and fecund. Hello World gives the distinct impression that Framework, the rapper, and Bean One, the producer, could easily go beyond the physical limits of the CD, and add 20 more equally superb tracks. When Bean One and Framework connect, the results are volcanic.

Hello World was recorded in Bean One’s house in the University District. “It took 31 days to make,” explains Bean One. “I gave Framework seven CDs of beats. He took them home, wrote stuff, and then he started coming around to my place at 12 at night to record. He was always on time, and wouldn’t be drunk or high but ready for some go-get-it shit. And that’s the kind of professionalism I admire. Some rappers come to my place and they are so high they don’t know what they’re doing, and begin wasting my time. Framework was there on time and ready to work.”

Framework’s raps are about street life—thugging for a living, hustling hard drugs, dealing with obdurate cops, going in and out of America’s bloated prison system. “I’m from the streets where it’s scandalous/don’t be feeling scared while teenagers that be acting mannish,” raps Framework, who was recently released from King County Regional Justice Center, where he spent a good part of this hip-hop-splendid year. “I don’t always agree with what he has to say,” explains Bean One, “but he has the natural elements that make an emcee: elements of cadence, chrism, and imagination. And that is why I have to work with him. There are people who say things that I agree with but they sound like shit. And I can’t work with them.”

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Deadlivers

Oldominion was a hip-hop collective that rose to prominence in the Northwest right around Y2K. Comprised of more than twenty members, the group’s debut album One was released in 2000 to critical acclaim. A few years after One, a side project emerged from Oldominion titled Grayskul that included three members: Onry Ozzborn, JFK, and Rob Castro. Grayskul would go on to record at least ten albums together, but their greatest work remains Deadlivers, released in 2005. Deadlivers is a masterwork of rap theater in the same vein as a Prince Paul hip-hop opera. Grayskul paints elaborate pictures in your mind using archetypal good vs. evil battles to illuminate their concepts and bring them to life. “This is the birth of miracle, magic, and majesty,” raps Ozzborn on “Behold,” transforming a cute little line from Paul Simon’s Graceland into a vaguely ominous warning. Both “Vixen” and “After Hours” bring an accessible, fun balance to the album’s generally more dark themes. “Adversarial Theater Of Justice,” and “Action Figure Of Speech,” both appear near the beginning of the LP and display the nimble poetry and twisted imagery conjured by Grayskul on this project. Deadlivers is a hauntingly beautiful fugue, and by daring to stray from tired rap stereotypes, The album achieves true greatness. A 206 classic! (Written by Novocaine132.)

Here’s another take:

The Stranger selected Deadlivers as one of the “Top 6 Hip-Hop Albums of 2005,” saying:

If the Northwest Oldominion crew has an artistic peak, it’s Grayskul’s Deadlivers, which has one of the greatest opening lines of our (post-9-11) times: “If ever there was a time in your life to be afraid/I think this qualifies as the most terrifying of days” (“Behold”). Released by Rhymesayers Entertainment, Deadlivers is relentlessly dark and menacing, with flawless production. More than any other Oldominion record, Grayskul’s sound is both cinematic and architectural. Listening to Deadlivers is much like watching the shadow of a man—a murderer? a superhero? a vampire?—walking through wet, windswept streets. The beats are built big with splendid gothic details, and above black rushing clouds, is a moon that is silver and monstrously pregnant. In Deadlivers the horror/crime/sci-fi image is translated into sonic forms.

“We did about 50 songs,” explains Mr. Hill, who provided most of the beats for Deadlivers. “Castro, Onry, JFK came up with the idea of Grayskul and they wanted to use my style of music. Critics often describe it as dark, sinister, or theatrical, but to me, it just sounds normal. I never think it’s that dark; it’s just my ear, the way I like to hear things. Some of the beats we used were made as far back as 1999, but most were made while we were putting the record together.” Grayskul’s core is Onry Ozzborn, who plays a character named Reason, and JFK, who plays Recluse, and their rhymes are twisted like a madman’s mind, heavier than a tombstone, and as shadowy as the evil eyes of Bela Lugosi. Mr. Hill’s music complements Grayskul’s grave fiction. In fact, if there is one producer who has really helped define the region’s somber aesthetic, it is Mr. Hill, who contributed four beats to Silent Lambs Project’s darkling Street Talkin’… Survival and will contribute two beats to Kool Keith’s next Dr. Octagon CD.

“The thing about hip-hop,” Mr. Hill explains, “is it takes 30 minutes or two days to make, so it’s all about each song. But once I make a beat [Grayskul] go into the studio, and while putting the track together things begin to change. What we start with is never what we end with.”

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

After Midnight

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