Don’t take Grayskul’s sometimes dark, mystical aesthetic the wrong way--MCs Onry Ozzborn and JFK aren’t trying to be Goth or ghoulish. “We never go into anything like ‘oohh, let’s be eeevil on this one. We’re gonna get ‘em!’ It just comes how it comes,” explains Onry. Born out of the Pacific Northwest’s Oldominion hip-hop collective, Grayskul emerged as a group in 2004 touring with Rhymesayers artists Eyedea and Abilities. And they made quite an impression as the opening act. In addition to holding an unrelenting energy, Grayskul brought to the stage their animated bassist Rob Castro, a television with no signal, and alien dummies propped atop their shoulders.
With their 2005 Rhymesayers debut, Deadlivers, this Seattle group kept the uncommon visuals coming in the form of imaginative storytelling. Going by the alter egos Fiddleback Recluse (JFK), Reason (Onry Ozzborn), and Phantom Ghost El Topo (Rob Castro), Grayskul conquered corrupt MCs and societal ills utilizing razor-sharp raps and electrifying boom-bap beats (from Onry, Fakts One, Oldomion’s Mr. Hill and others). Despite the comic book-like theme of the album, Onry clarifies how real the record actually is: “Deadlivers was taken by most as this dark, superhero journey through this crazy made up world of MCing, when in actuality, it was what MCs go through today in real life situations.”
Not wanting to repeat themselves in the slightest, Onry and JFK are taking a more conceptual approach with their new album, Bloody Radio, which features Slug, Cage, Pigeon John, Aesop Rock, and vocalist Andrea Zollo. Produced by their Oldominion brethren (Mr. Hill, Smoke, Coley Cole, The Gigantics) and other Pacific Northwest reps (Sapient, Bean One), this release is an experiment in reconstructing the many sub-genres of hip-hop today and throwing them back in the face of those who insist on dividing the culture. “Haunted” is an eerie synth-driven track that brings some Lil Jon-esque crunk down to a subterraneous level while “How To Load A Tech” with Cage is a curious dissection of hardcore, gun-happy hip-hop. And if you ever wondered what Onry and JFK would sound like flowing in the ever popular double-time style, look no further than the bubbly lead single “Scarecrow.”
Reflecting on the concept of Bloody Radio, Onry says, “Back in the day, it used to just be categorized as ‘hip-hop’--nowadays there's crunk, screwed, emo, gangsta, underground, club, horrorcore, etc. We basically look at our new album as reversal brainwash--hip-hop music somewhat sounding like all these genres, but interwoven with message, substance, concepts, wittiness, opinion, and most of all, honesty while still maintaining a sense of humor, imagination, and originality. Bloody Radio has something for everybody.”