A film about Northwest hip-hop from

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.”

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Sirens Echo

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!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Alone

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!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Venom

Onry Ozzborn released this Venom EP shortly before his explosive solo album Alone. I’m not the biggest authority on Oldominion, so I can’t tell you too much background info except that this is one of my favorites from the Seattle/Portland massive. For those that don’t know Oldominion, their dark, brooding vibe has been dubbed “the Northwest Sound” by some. The title track, featuring Toni Hill, Snafu, Nyquil, Anaxagorous, and Ezra, is a smooth, atmospheric near-masterpiece courtesy of beat-man Pale Soul. “Immortal” and “Daredevils” are two tracks that I feel are fine examples of the Oldominion sound (angry, desolate imagery; references to grunge and metal bands), and “Lights Out” (featuring Sole of Anticon) is a classic from the dark underground. It’s a perfect record for December in the Northwest. Six tracks altogether (Four vox and two inst). (This review originally appeared on the Bring That Beat Back blog and was written by Jack Devo.)

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

One

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!

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

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

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!

A film about Northwest hip-hop from

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

Did we get it wrong? It happens. Send us an email and let's get it corrected right away!