Blue Scholars Ready Sophomore Lp Bayani
Posted on March 24, 2007 by Jamie Slaughter
With one full-length album (Self-Titled, 2004) and an 8-song EP (The Long March, 2005) the Blue Scholars have emerged out of the erupting Northwest hip-hop scene with soulful beats, poetic yet political rhymes and a reputation for dynamic live performances. With their second full-length release, Bayani, due out on June 12, 2007 on MASSLINE in collaboration with the preeminent label of hip-hop’s glory age and the newly revitalized Rawkus Records, the torch bearing Seattle duo blends the personal and the political, unafraid to party in the process.
Emcee Geologic and DJ/producer Sabzi come from vastly different musical approaches to experiment with a unique, new sound that still echoes the classic boom-bap of a bygone era (see: A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets). Prior to their collision, Geo had already begun making local rounds as a battle emcee and spoken-word poet, while Sabzi honed his skills as a classical and jazz-trained pianist while attending indie ska and punk shows. This unlikely partnership set the precedent for what distinguishes the group from the vast sea of independent hip-hop artists - the ability to strike a balance between worlds usually seen distant from one another. Poetic lyricism with beats you can dance to. Marxist theory mixed with Baha'i spirituality. Musical influences ranging from Thelonius Monk and Aphex Twin to Marvin Gaye and J Dilla.
However, the bridge between the two artists goes far beyond musical interests. Blue Scholars is as much rooted in the music as it is in serving the people. Their experiences as college students provide an intellectual dimension to their craft, while their backgrounds as second-generation sons of working-class immigrants keep the music grounded. Armed with a purpose beyond creating music for music's sake, Blue Scholars take the classic form of the emcee/DJ duo (Gangstarr, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Eric B. & Rakim) while carrying the essence of militant, yet personal struggle shown by hip-hop luminaries such as Public Enemy and KRS-One.
There is no mistaking that Bayani marks a creative and emotional leap forward for Blue Scholars. The four years since recording their first album has been marked by four years of war and uncertainty. People everywhere are looking for answers, growing tired of the banality and repetitiveness of the music and culture that currently dominates the airwaves. Similar to the wave of protest music that emerged during the Vietnam War, Bayani is a statement record stamped with the anger, depression and the slowly emerging hope of these uncertain times.
Less sloganeering and more storytelling, Bayani showcases a more focused Geologic and a polished Sabzi coming into their own as a premier DJ-emcee duo. “The Distance” tells the story of a working-class immigrant, accompanied by a dark melodic soundscape that recalls a Philippine dance song. Geo also flexes his narrating skills on “Joe Metro,” an ode to Seattle’s lone form of public transportation and “50 Thousand Deep,” recalling the 1999 “Battle in Seattle” at the historic WTO protests. The album's title is also a nod to Geologic and Sabzi's communities, as the word Bayani can be found in both the Tagalog (Filipino) and Farsi (Persian) languages. In Tagalog (Filipino), the word translates to "heroes (of the people)" and in Farsi, "the divine word."
Since 2002, the duo has become renowned live show veterans, rocking over 200 shows with the likes of Kanye West, De La Soul, Immortal Technique, and supporting such acts as Zion I, One Be Lo, The Coup and Soul Position on tour, labor organizing conferences and youth-run community center shows to playing the main stage at Sasquatch! (2006) and Bumbershoot (2006). In June 2006, Blue Scholars joined forces with Common Market (emcee RA Scion and DJ Sabzi) and emcee Gabriel Teodros (of Abyssinian Creole) to launch MASSLINE, a new artist-run independent record label. Partnering with Rawkus Records to release Bayani to a larger audience, Blue Scholars' aim to mobilize more minds and bodies towards liberation while keeping their mission the same as it ever was: to serve the people.
Rawkus is back in the building, and the razor is sharper then ever!