Of all the many things I found wrong with my friend and esteemed colleague Charles Mudede's recent Unified Wave Theory of Seattle Hiphop (put forth in these very pages a few weeks back), I was struck how its rather narrow neighborhood-specific focus left no room for a nomadic, region-spanning entity like Oldominion. And let's be real here—if you're going to do a Seattle hiphop time line and leave out Ol-D... well, you're probably smoking dust.
You know how I know that? Because I can remember when people simply took to hating on Oldominion like they were skinny jeans because of their ubiquity on show bills, because of their actual depth of catalog, because of their incessant touring. Eight years ago (around the time they released their group debut, One) I didn't know any of them, and the one show of theirs I'd seen (I think it was at the EMP) had left me scratching my fuckin' head: The shit just seemed so... dark. "It's OK to Be Dark," reassured the promotional posters for One at the time.
Over time, one by one, I came to meet many of the members of this collective, whose 30-tough membership spans from Portland to Seattle (and perhaps beyond); I found that many of them—like me—shared a love of strong drink, rock 'n' roll, and hardcore hiphop. I found among these cats an utter lack of the competitive, suspicious, weird air I'd gotten from so many of my local contemporaries at the time—I found some regular-ass cats who were very, very creative; I count a few of them among my best friends to this day.
While I was always a fan of many of their MCs, I can't say I was always a huge fan of their music—but it seems that, over time, the right combinations and ideas started to click. I'll never forget the "whoa" factor of the very first Grayskul show or JFK's enthusiasm as he pulled me aside to tell me that they'd been signed to Rhymesayers Entertainment. Boom Bap Project's no-frills hiphop (and Nightclubber Lang's peerless shit-talking) will always be an inspiration, as will Onry Ozzborn's mind for the grind. Barfly, whom for years I didn't know what to make of, turned out to be one of my favorite MCs in town and one of the coolest, funniest bastards I've ever encountered.
So now, after 10 years in the game, Oldominion are making the best music they've ever made (see them live Sat Jan 31 at the Vera Project, 4 pm, and at Neumos, 8 pm). Onry's Gigantics album was insane, and his upcoming solo No Hoax is absolutely, without a doubt, his finest hour. Barfly's Saturday Knights are killing it from here to Australia (no, really), and he's only got another 12 or so groups he's in (among them, the Nite Owls, which include Mr. Hill and myself). JFK's solo shit is going to melt faces, as will The Metra, whenever Bishop I's camp Dim Mak drop it! The newest additions to the crew, Candidt and Xperience, are two of the NW's very finest and can both rip shows to shreds. So here's to the Owl—may all of you mufuckas (and I couldn't have possibly mentioned all of y'all without further fucking my word count) keep bangin' it out for another 10.