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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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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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Red Scribe Pages

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.

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The Dead Stock Sessions

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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Soul Liquor

I always thought that if this album dropped in any other city it would have been a huge, huge hit. Likewise, if it had dropped a couple of years after its release. But in 2000, Seattle was still off the hip-hop radar, and The Silent Lambs Project (Jace and Blak) was unfortunately just too far ahead of their time.

You can hear their voices on the early Seattle compilations, over the grey, murky, rainy musical backdrop, but when they joined forces as The Silent Lambs, they took that bleak, damp atmosphere to a whole new level.

Soul Liquor is a dark album. Dark and ominous. Jace’s rhymes are sedated and deadpan like he hasn’t seen the sun in months, while Blak’s deep-bass voice growls and stutters on the offbeat like some sick troll under a bridge.

Producer King Otto (along with Mr. Hill and Bean One) provides the perfect sonic backdrop. Listen to the string section straining for a resolution that never comes on “H.O.R.”, or the disjointed piano loop from “Original Conviction.” Or the empty, cave-like quality of the live cuts. This is a dark record.

Whereas Seattle compatriots Oldominion tend to glorify and romanticize the dark side of existence, The Silent Lambs give it to you straight. There’s no glorification here. Every metaphor is spoken in a monotone, like a grocery list, making the blasted aural landscape even bleaker. So I guess this album wouldn’t have been a hit in another city, as it is so definitely a Northwest record. And if it had come out later, it might have just been dismissed as another act cashing in on the “Northwest Sound” credited to Oldominion. It’s too bad because The Silent Lambs Project deserves to be recognized as one of the great inspirational acts in the underground hip-hop constellation. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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Operation Raw

Here’s an early lo-fi release from Seattle producer Bean One. After I found out about his project Doublevision, I picked up this dope tape back in the day from local music supporter Orpheum Records on Broadway. It’s a great snapshot of some obviously talented artists in their early days. Although Bean has become a household name in the underground hip-hop community (producing tracks for such notables as Charlie 2Na and Trife Da God), I’m not really sure what Proh Mic has been up to. Any info would be appreciated. Other names that appear on this tape include Putney Swope, Verse Omega, Kylea from Beyond Reality, and Mr. Hill (later to be found all over Oldominion releases). Over an hour of classic grimy and lo-fi goodness from ’99. (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

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