They write amazing spoken-word poetry set to ambient jazz piano, haunting strings and hip-hop beats. Their music represents a young, activist, multicultural generation, ready to speak out. They're the Blue Scholars, scheduled to play the UW Memorial Union Terrace on the first week of school. The Seattle duo, composed of MC Geologic and DJ Sabzi, are breaking new ground in pop music.
Their new album, Bayani, is my favorite recording of the year so far. There's simply no other musical act right now that rivals the Blue Scholars' cultural impact.
Geologic and Sabzi are pseudonyms for George Quibuyen and Alexei Saba Mohajerjasbi. Quibuyen is the poetic son of Filipino immigrants. Mohajerjasbi is Iranian American, and his musical background includes training in jazz piano.
They met in 2000 as undergrads at the University of Washington, where they both joined a student organization aiming to promote hip-hop music and culture.
View their antiwar video, "Back Home," on YouTube for a glimpse of what makes the Blue Scholars so compelling. The clip depicts an Asian teenager walking to school down a boulevard of broken concrete. She passes a black man being pressed against a wall of graffiti by a cop. At her high school, a soldier looms outside the run-down classrooms, recruiting students before the morning bell.
Geologic raps: "So next time you see recruiters in your school or your crib, tell them thank you for the offer, but you'd rather you lived."
You might expect thundering, angry beats supporting these rhymes. Not so. DJ Sabzi embraces the complexity of the subject with musical nuance. The piano line is sonically thin and lonely. The orchestral effects are mournful. A soul singer's voice is soothing.
The Iraq war is only part of the Blue Scholars' agenda. Bayani takes on immigration ("If you've never seen the distance in an immigrant's eyes, then you've never seen resistance in the form of a cry") and world trade protests ("50,000 people deep; they called it a riot; no, I call it an uprising").
Bayani unites the ethnically different Geologic and Sabzi, and even its title suggests that America's new multiracial generation can find common ground. In Tagalog (Filipino), it translates to "heroes (of the people)," and in Farsi it means "the divine word."
What better way to welcome the class of 2011 to college?