Famed producer works with East County duo

When you think of the locales that hip-hop performers namecheck, you might think of Compton, Queensbridge, Detroit or the Bronx.

But if three local producers have anything to say about it, rappers may be name-dropping Gresham as well.

Known as Colossus, the trio consists of Vengeful Ghost (Pamplin Media employee Jeff McCall), Blue Healer (Grant Burgess) and Ayatollah (Lamont Dorrell). The three men work together in a Gresham JIM CLARK - From left: Blue Healer, Vengeful Ghost and Ayatollah discuss their upcoming instrumental beats record, which they are shopping to various labels.

Of the three, Ayatollah — or Tollah, as he’s now known — is by far the best known, having produced records, including gold and platinum sellers, for Mos Def, Styles P, Pharoahe Monch, R.A. The Rugged Man, Talib Kweli and many others.

“When it comes to hip-hop beats, Ayatollah has been there and done that, and largely received acclaim for his production everywhere that he goes,” stated one writer on

Having moved to Gresham recently after falling in love with an Oregon woman, Tollah met the Ghost and the Healer at Café Delirium after being introduced by a mutual acquaintance. Vengeful and Blue were aspiring hip-hop producers themselves, and hit it off with the New York City native, all three men noted.

“I’ve been listening to Tollah’s music for 10 years,” Ghost says. “There’s a lot of people making real synthy beats with technology in the studio. But what I like about his beats is he’s using samples mostly from vinyl records, movies, other found sounds, just like classic hip-hop.”

Blue Healer and Vengeful Ghost have worked together as Statler and Waldorf (you can hear their music at As Colossus, the trio plans to offer their beats (percussive tracks featuring highly modified audio samples of other records) to labels in the hope their artists may use them, they add.

“We’re not really concerned with having a beat on a record we’re not behind,” Blue Healer says. “I’d like to work with artists I really respect.”

On that note, the trio says it spends lots of time creating quality beats, featuring, as Blue Healer puts it, “the history of recorded music as an instrument.”

Indeed, Vengeful Ghost boasts an extensive vinyl record collection, including music by operetta composer Victor Herbert as well as “Listen and Learn Japanese,” an instructional LP. The trio also use audio samples taken from such TV shows as “The Twilight Zone.”

“I think there’s something cool about making music with what you can find,” Blue Healer adds. “You can take 10 different sounds and blend them together.”

Tollah adds that hip-hop has been inspiring him since he first heard it growing up in Jamaica, Queens.

“You’d go outside and hear the music and people would be breakdancing and there was graffiti,” he says. “It was free and all accessible.”

Tollah adds that he’s glad he connected with his Gresham compatriots.

“We just feel each other’s ideas, we appreciate each other’s work,” he says. “It’s not competitive — it’s a meeting of the minds. And I’m looking forward to completing (our record) and putting it out there for people to listen to, and maybe doing some shows together, too.”

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