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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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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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Hmmm... There's not a lot of information about this project in the museum encyclopedia. We'd love your help! TOWN LOVE is maintained by an awesome community of passionate volunteers who keep it all up to date.

Do you know something about the history of this record? Do you have a favorite lyric or a favorite memory? Send us an email on why this is one of the great hip-hop albums from the Northwest. Thanks!

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The Trade

Boom Bap Project began with two rappers, Karim “Nightclubber Lang” Panni, and Damian “Destro” Oramas who were connected to the sprawling Oldominion crew. According to Destro in a 2021 KEXP interview, Jon “Wordsayer” Moore had booked the duo for a performance at the Sit & Spin, and he asked the two what they wanted to be called on the flyer. Lang and Destro told Wordsayer that they didn’t have a name yet, but they were working on a ‘boom bap’ type of project, and Wordsayer said, “well, that’s what I’m gonna call you.” The rest was history.

These hungry MCs had lyrics, but rap needs a beat. Who do you go to in the year 2000 in Seattle? You go to one of the best, in this case Jake One, who produced two tracks for the duo, “The Trade,” and “Writer’s Guild.” And not only did they have Jake on the beat, but 206 hip-hop legend Vitamin D also does cuts and scratches on both songs. What more could you ask for?

A-side “The Trade” is about showing skills. “Known for batterin, your saccharin-induced rhyme pattern, that caters to seduced minds splatterin,” goes one line. The chorus on “The Trade” features choice “boom bap” samples from KRS One and Q-Tip. Side B is “Writer’s Guild,” and it’s a natural head-nodder with catchy, staccato production. The verses on “Writer’s Guild” contain lots of wordplay and clever rhymes, for instance, “My beats serenade streets for all of my peeps who hate the police.”

The group positioned themselves as educated and conscious rappers, but they were awfully comfortable using homophobic slurs on “The Trade,” which creates dissonance in the listening experience. This was the first single for the group and also for their label Stuck Records, and a movement quickly coalesced around Boom Bap Project, pushing them closer to the top of the Seattle hip-hop scene. Written by Novocaine132

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Oldominion dropped their first single in 1999, “Don’t Kill Your Radio,” which established the group as angst ridden and wickedly intelligent. The following year, the group put out its second twelve-inch, “Parallel To Hell,” b/w “Serenade To Silence.” These two songs showed growth, not only artistically but also numerically, as “Silence” boldly featured eight rappers on the same cut. Then Oldominion put out a short lo-fi CD titled Book Of Fury, also in 2000.

Oldominion’s proper debut album, titled One, includes “Radio,” “Hell,” and “Silence,” plus eleven new tracks. Track one “Ezmerelda” showcases rapper Syndel and her densely-packed style. Despite having so many voices, “Serenade To Silence” is probably my favorite track on the album. The simple repeated guitar notes in the composition remind me of a meditative Om chant, which grounds the song for me. At the start of the CD an interviewer asks, “How would you describe Oldominion?” I laugh out loud every time I hear the reply, “Haven’t heard of them.”

By the release of One the various members were already embarking on side-projects. Onry Ozzborn would go on to collaborate with JFK and Rob Castro to make Grayskul. Destro Destructo and Nightclubber Lang would become Boom Bap Project. If the One album was a talk-radio program it would be the conspiracy-laden Coast To Coast AM show, hosted by the paranormal-obsessed weirdo Art Bell until his passing in 2018. Listening to Oldominion is like playing Scrabble with Hannibal Lecter, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Bukowski, imagination runs amok in a torrent of bizarre, fantasy-filled, and sometimes mundane lyrics. Take the ride. Written by Novocaine132

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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

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Don't Kill Your Radio

Oldominion was a giant crew of hip-hop affiliated artists that assembled into a colossal rap group in the late ’90s. The group’s first single, Don’t Kill Your Radio appeared in 1999 on both CD and wax format.

The A-side of the vinyl starts with the vocal version of “Don’t Kill Your Radio,” and Oldominion immediately moves to capture wordy, thesaurus-rap territory in a literary land grab. These are very atypical rap lyrics here. “With bloody Carrie walking down the path of a pet cemetary,” is a good example, dropping a couple of Stephen King references. You won’t hear raps about blunts, cars, sex, jewelry, and the typical materialism found in a lot of hip-hop. Instead, these MCs spin colorful yarns and mini-vignettes which keep your ear wondering what they will say next. “Don’t Kill Your Radio” ends with a very metaphysical quote about positivity and negativity, wait for it. Instrumental and acapella mixes are included here for the DJs.

Side B features “Understand This,” maybe the smoothest of the three tracks here, but like all of Oldominion’s material it’s still a bit harsh-sounding. The group embraces paradoxes, “The closer you come, the further away you get,” is one of many examples found here. The last cut, “Ego System” contains more of the same out-there, conceptual lyrics like, “I wrote this song with the world on my back, because I took it back from Atlas and destroyed the Zodiac.” The beat on “Ego System” arrives suddenly with tense violins, eventually adding drums and finding a chaotic equilibrium. Instrumental versions of both songs are included here adding value to the twelve-inch.

Don’t Kill Your Radio features many of the rappers in Oldominion, including Destro, Nyqwil, Onry Ozzborn, Pale Soul, Sleep, and Snafu. Just like Wu Tang Clan, Oldominion built a solid foundation as a huge crew, and then various members and groups broke off and recorded numerous side projects over the next decade. Written by Novocaine132

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