Sometime in 2004, I was enjoying a drink at some random hiphop show; who headlined I don’t remember. The important thing is that it was the first time Oldominion emcees Onry Ozzborn and JFK, with bassist Rob Castro, performed as Grayskul. From the minute the lights went down and the two dug into the grim beat (courtesy of Mr. Hill), it was obvious that these dudes were officially on to something.
Grayskul crystallized the essence of the heady, doom-and-gloom-filled, so-called "goth-hop" that Seattle luminaries Oldominion had been trying to perfect for years, but even darker, and yet more palatable. Somehow, Oldominion had produced a breakout act.
And break out they did. Soon after that show, Grayskul signed to indie-hop juggernaut Rhymesayers Entertainment, who gave them a major boost with their 2005 debut LP, Deadlivers. Since then, they've been on dozens of tours, nationwide and international, by themselves and with their RSE brethren, and released a fistful of exclusive, full-length tour albums. The release of their second RSE album, Bloody Radio, puts their output at seven long-players in just three short years. This creative abundance, this straight-up unmatched level of productivity ("It's all for the fans," laughs Ozzborn. "Lil' Wayne drops mixtapes every week—we drop albums.") has honed the once ad-hoc Grayskul ethic to a wicked edge.
The inadequacies of mainstream hiphop are a dead horse long beaten to jelly in the annals of independent hiphop. So instead of the typical holier-than-thou approach, Grayskul grind their own warped mirror of radio rap, something every bit as hook-filled and sleek as it is hardcore.
Bloody Radio is possibly the best Seattle hiphop album to come out in a year full of impressive releases, but its real test is in the national marketplace, not necessarily in Grayskul's adopted home of Seattle, where the crowds are fickle and the media regularly overlooks their contributions.
"Yeah, we used to be everywhere out here, we had our little reign," Ozzborn says. "But at the same time, we were even more focused on touring, and making our presence known everywhere else. We're focused on pushing our stuff outside of the town—and nurturing the cats coming up—but we ain't goin' nowhere."