Arts & Entertainment » Music

A sound puzzle

Piecing it all together \nin the hip-hop groove \nof Oldominion


Generally, people relate hip-hop music to Montana about as often as they relate fair voting practices to Florida. Still, Alex Kast and his Hungis Production Group are trying their damnedest to make Missoula, if not a hip-hop super Mecca, then at least a notable stop for major hip-hop acts touring through to throw down a few beats and rhymes for the kids.

Northwest hip-hoppers Oldominion is a tight-knit crew of 20 individuals based in Seattle and Portland who consider themselves as much a family as a band. They are virtually a self-contained hip-hop entity, seldom looking outside the group for anything from DJs to production to cover art. Plus, all 20 take turns emceeing throughout their sets. Oldominion member Barfly (i.e. Jeff Newton) says that like any family they endure personality conflicts within the crew, but Oldominion’s depth in personnel helps create an eclectic style that runs the gamut from more mainstream-sounding party hip-hop to “cerebral impressionistic verbiage.” Barfly says, “Each of us recognize one another’s creativity and know we each hold an important piece in creating a sort of complex sound puzzle.”

Members of Oldominion come from all over the United States—from Los Angeles to Philadelphia, from the Deep South to the Northwest. Barfly explains this adds further dimension to the group’s diversity. “Each of us grew up in different areas, listening to different types of hip-hop,” he says. By the late nineties, though, each member found himself or herself in the Seattle or Portland area working on various smaller projects. Hip-hop mogul Rochester A.P. was the lynchpin that brought the various factions together into one encompassing family, Barfly says. Though Rochester A.P. recently passed away, Oldominion lives on, and they’ve dedicated their first full-length CD, One, to his memory.

One has a predominately dark and haunting mood. It has an element of epic journey to it, with various rhyme-spewing tour guides conducting the listener from one ominous sound collage to another—much the way the poet Virgil leads Dante through each awesome, yet terrifying circle of hell—ultimately leaving the listener forever changed from traversing the path of Oldominion’s spiritual/auditory quest.

Barfly says that Oldominion’s live performances are at least as intense as their recorded artistry, but Missoula hip-hop scenesters should expect to witness less of the high-brow Logos and more of the energy-packed, booty-shakin’ Pathos. “For road shows we like to play more of the up-tempo party songs people can bump to,” he says. “The more meditative stuff is better to rock to alone in the headphones.”

A number of Oldominion’s emcees will do solo sets, like Sleep, Pale and Onry Ozzborn. (Ozzborn performed at the KBGA birthday party a few months back but won’t make it this time because he has recently become a father.) Boom Bap Project, a side project trio within Oldominion, will make it. Their recent EP, Circumstance Dictates, is consistent with Oldominion in its thoughtful yet cutting libretto. Yet the music is noticeably more upbeat, with a funk-infused sound punctuated with lively horns replacing much of the eerie synthesizer tones consistent in Oldominion, giving Boom Bap Project a much more animated, dance-inspiring tone.

Missoula is the kickoff of Oldominion’s winter mini-tour, and this show is the second put on by Hungis Production Group. The first was the Styles of Beyond show Oct. 27. That show had its share of little glitches, Kast says. The table with the turntables was unsteady and whenever the crowd started to get into the show, the record would skip; 200 pound-plus rapper 4-Zone also blew out one of the amps while beat-boxing into the mic. Despite such problems, Kast says that a lot of people turned out and the show went well. This time, he hopes for an even better attendance and a smoother production, and the lower ticket price of $8 (down from $17) should be an incentive to pack the house. “When there’s more of a crowd, it’s always more fun for everybody,” Kast says.

The afternoon of the show on Dec. 2, members of Oldominion will be at Ear Candy Records at 4 p.m. for a record signing and small performance. “It’ll be a little sample of what’s to come later that night, a short sneak peak.”

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