OnlyOne is grimy. To Sandpeople acolytes and fans, this probably isn’t a revelation, but, if the 18-track Cult Classic tape is your intro to the Portland emcee, then this is a thought that’ll probably go through your mind a lot. In 2009, OnlyOne and fellow Sandpeople group member (and battle rapper) Illmaculate released an Outkast-style double solo album called Police Brutality which, in retrospect, was a savvy move. Both duos complement each other as much as they contrast and, on Cult Classic, those contrasts help give OnlyOne a more singular identity as a solo artist.
Like Cage and a gang of death metal groups before him, OnlyOne intros certain tracks with thematically similar film clips, both making the tape more cohesive and offering a bit of reprieve from an album that’s a solid 18 tracks with nary a skit or interlude in sight. Rap-wise, OnlyOne often has a palpable disdain and a subtle matter-of-fact world-weariness, often coming across like “yes, you’re getting robbed of the drugs I just sold you, but you should know better, stupid”. Robberies, drugs, murder, prison, and souls come up a lot on Cult Classic, but almost endearingly so; like Jesse Pinkman, he’s a worldly scumbag you want to root for, the kind of dude that would ramble in deadpan about hellfire and Sumeria as he kicked your girlfriend for the dope money she owes him. “Follow a Dollar” best sums up what OnlyOne is as a rapper; dope, measured rapping and lurid descriptions of terrible, terrible things sheathed in an air of menace. The John Carpenter sounds flickering throughout the track fit his style to a T, and even when Illmac shows up with a hook or the beats forgo that menace (after all, only one track could be considered dour on here), Only somehow manages to corrupt it like the carrion touch of Death, creating the kind of music that forces you into his world and headspace. Hell, dude could probably rap over Abba’s “Dancing Queen” and make it sound gritty and twisted.
This is reality rap at its core, and at no point in the album does it sound like the shady deals, violence, and prison stories he raps about seem especially embellished or like artifice. It’s rare to say that kind of thing about most rappers, and often the best compliment you can pay a rapper is “his lies sound so believable“. Only is a rare kind of rapper, someone who spits about topics dark, filthy, and depressing with a likability and adeptness to reference the occult, arcane, and obscure without sounding corny or like every other indie rapper post-Canibus and Wu-Tang. There’s no spiritual-lyrical-miracle rhymes-for-rhymes-sake bars on this tape, every scheme actually makes sense, making his deftness with internal rhymes that much more impressive, and his subject matter is often buoyed by his sheer likability. Dude has a sense of humor, style, and impeccable chops, suggesting that Illmaculate is definitely not the only Portland emcee with the talent to pop.
Need some A/V proof? Check below for the album stream via DatPiff, as well as links to OnlyOne music, info and updates.