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After years of paying dues in various groups and collectives, Onry Ozzborn has put Northwest hip-hop on the map. His experiments in varying degrees of morose expressionism turned an artistic corner with the release of last year's Dark Time Sunshine collaboration with producer Zavala. Once themes of fatherhood and redemption began combating the dystopian angst of his earlier work, ears took notice.

On Hold on for Dear Life, Ozzborn's new style is expounded upon with the help of some of indie rap's finest beatsmiths. Ozzborn suggests, "It's funny what music can do if it's done right/ It's not funny what it can do if it blocks light." As an emcee who previously channeled his pain into enjoyable yet bleak soundtracks, this foray into positivity and realism is all the more impressive and hard-hitting.

The one crack in the veneer of the record is overindulgence in pop-culture references. Even if you rhyme Zac Efron with Teflon, you're still namedropping a Disney star on a rap record. Fortunately for Onry, every lyrical misstep is counteracted by a track such as "That Good" or "Daughters," rendering those instances no more than an afterthought.

  • Album: Hold on for Dear Life (2011)
  • Artist: Onry Ozzborn
  • Label: Fake Four Inc.
  • Songs: (1) Michael Admires You (2) The O.O. (3) All to Herself (4) The Getaway Car (5) That Good (6) Way Out (7) Best of All Time (8) Electric Dreams (9) Limbo Thus Purgatory (10) Daughters (11) Hold Up (12) Nightlife (13) N.W. A List (14) Hold on for Dear Life (15) Blend In (16) I Give Up (17) Fake Four
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