Sunday, April 20, 2008

Blue Scholars

Hailing from my hometown of Seattle, Washington, Blue Scholars is a politically charged and relevant hip-hop duo.

The hip-hop duo formed in college at the University of Washington in 2002 through a student-based hip-hop organization, SHOW (Student Hip Hop Organization of Washington). DJ Sabzi and rapper Geologic have taken off as one of the most powerful underground duos in hip-hop to date. They have blown up especially in the Northwest and on the underground rap scene.

"The name "Blue Scholars" is a play on the term "blue collar," which is an idiom for workers who often earn meager hourly wages for manual labor. Their music and lyrics often focus on struggles between socioeconomic classes, challenging authority and youth empowerment," [Wikipedia]

I have a lot of respect for Blue Scholars. Not only are they putting my home city on the map and producing most(if not all) of their music out of Sabzi's home studio, more importantly, they are bringing up a lot of important issues within their music. With their catchy beats and hooks, Blue Scholars delve into topics ranging from class issues, social justice movements, U.S. foreign policy/imperialism the revival of hip-hop and so much more.

Both members of Blue Scholars create a unique duo, rapper, Geologic, is Filipino American and Sabzi is Iranian American. Blue Scholars are carving an important space in hip-hop as Asian American. I think the reading by Oliver Wang is an interesting read on Asian Americans in hip-hop, but I'm not quite sure where to place Blue Scholars. From what I see they are not trying to attain mainstream recognition or success, but rather spread their message underground and to a larger audience not on the mainstream tip. Commercial viability and a mass target audience does not appear to be on the forefront of their agenda.

I think Blue Scholars evoke less of an Asian American consciousness in their hip-hop music but make central identity politics, inequalities, and make call to action for social injustices. What I think they're doing is just as important as racializing their music but, I do think they're music is lacking the racialized element of being Asian American, children of immigrants, etc.

At the same time, they are presence with young Asian Americans in the Northwest, often performing on the college scene, interviewing with Asian magazines/newspapers, and drawing a largely Asian following. The emphasis is on the music just as much as the message. In an interview with
Northwest Asian Weekly Geo said,
“it’s just beats, rhymes and life. Keep the formula simple.” The artist have a deep passion and commitment to social justice not only in their music but in their work outside of the studio. This includes, running free workshops visiting schools, youth programs, speaking engagements, working with WAPIFASA (the Washington Asian Pacific Islander Families Against Substance Abuse). Geo is also involved with a student group within Bayan USA, a progressive umbrella organization that brings together Filipino groups from all different backgrounds working for social change.

I think Blue Scholars are the future of hip-hop. They are putting
activism to music.

btw, my younger sister met Sabzi and has been to his home studio... so cool.


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