Blue Scholars offers accessible hip hop through originality

Ian Dapiaoen July 15, 2004 0

Geologic (George Quibuyen) and DJ Sabzi (Alexi Saba Mohajerjasbi), of the hip hop duo Blue Scholars, were not at all disappointed when they didn’t win in the hip hop category at Seattle Weekly’s 2004 Music Awards. When the award was given to Vitamin D at the Fenix Underground in Pioneer Square on May 11 (with Mayor Greg Nickels in attendance), the group decided to leave the ceremony. The next day, they were surprised to hear that they won the event’s coveted award: Album of the Year, which was given at the end of the event.

“Will people—who aren’t our close friends- like our material? 24-year-old Quibuyen jokingly asks. Since the release of their self-titled albumn in February of this year, the group has received acclaim from both the media and their peers.

Performing at local shows and touring throughout California, Chicago and Florida, the importance of the music’s message has outweighed their recent successes. On “Freewheelin’, ” Geologic raps about his early memories of hip hop; while “Blink” blasts government policies in an unjust war.

Geologic and DJ Sabzi, who met at the University of Washington, were involved in the Seattle Hip Hop Organization of Washington at the UW (SHOW) in 1999, years before recording tracks together. One of the SHOWs founders, Marc Matsui, currently manages them.

“Geo lived with Marc back in the day,” says 22-year-old Mohajerjasbi, a Persian American. “At the same time, I was creating beats on my computer and was shopping it around to different MC’s (rappers).”

Collaborating in 2002, the music making process based itself on rhymes written over the beat. However, the two believed that personal interaction and learning about each other is more important.

“We spent lots of time talking,” says Mohajerjasbi. “We talked about life, politics… and things that exists in our everyday lives.”

As a writer, Quibuyen considers himself an MC first. Performing spoken word poetry for isangmahal arts kollective, the matter of sitting down and writing actual songs became a challenge.

“It was a struggle at first,” says Quibuyen, a Filipino American. “The process became easier once we got to know each other a little bit better.”

As their sound evolved, their work and perspective in the community developed. Mohajerjasbi is currently involved in the Baha’i faith community and Geologic is part of AnakBayan Seattle, a youth and student organization that educates others about Philippine history, culture and politics. As the group gains more progressive fans and listeners every day, they feel they can reach all types of hip-hop and non-hip hop fans.

“The goal is to reach as many people as possible and to encourage our listeners to take action and get involved in the community,” said Quibuyen.

As for the name, it is a clever play on words between “blue collar” and “scholar.” Both artists are products of working class families and hold college degrees. “The Blue is for the color of my mother and father plus the Scholars that we be…the Blue is for the nighttime mood swingin’ tune of every bluesman, singing what’s like to not be free…” raps Geologic on “Blue School.”

During live shows, Geologic will perform a call and response, where he says “blue,” the crowd responding with “school!” The live show aspect is important for the group because the fans are accessible.

“The music and the quality of the material is very accessible,” says Matsui. “It is not exclusive to true hip hop fans and isn’t aimed towards a certain demographic. It’s hip hop with no barriers.”

The album is proof that hip hop, with a clear and defined message, can be fun at the same time. With the selling all of their CD’s (1,000 albums in four months) through their website, live shows and grassroots promotion, Blue Scholars will release a second printing of the album later this year with a larger distributor.

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