Blue Scholars have released one full-length album (Self-Titled, 2004) and an 8-song EP (The Long March, 2005) emerging out of the Northwest hip-hop scene with soulful beats, poetic yet political rhymes and a reputation for scorching live performances. With their second full-length release, Bayani, on MASSLINE in collaboration with Rawkus Records, the torchbearing Seattle duo seeks to blend the personal and the political, while not afraid to party in the process.
Emcee Geologic and DJ/producer Sabzi came 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 distinguished 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 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 go far beyond musical interests. Blue Scholars is as much rooted in the music as it is in working in the community. 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.
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."
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