featured REVIEW


Blue Scholars Bayani Rawkus/MassLine Media • 2007

The Northwestern hip-hop scene is blooming and at the root of its 'uprising' is the duo of Blue Scholars, consisting of producer Sabzi and lyricist Geology, who released their first self-titled album in 2004. 'Bayani' is their third release (there was an EP in between) as they continue in the same tradition of socio-political manifesto lyrics or, as they call it themselves, 'militant optimism'.

While some of the most poignant and activist songs about well-rounded subjects appear in the second half of the album, 'Opening Salvo' is the first hint towards their militant optimism ('We’re the bullet in the middle of the belly of the beast') whereas Geology promotes humbleness in the piano-tinged 'Ordinary Guys' claiming 'money don’t translate to talent' as he himself got 'holes in the soles of a third of my socks' and just now even got 'a comma in my check account balance'. Geo’s verbal sharpness is all-present and never weakens throughout the album. 'There’s no such thing as an unjustified existence, except, perhaps, a few thousand rappers in this business', he smartly states in 'Fire For The People' while putting down some shrewd lines in the immigrant anthem 'The Distance' ('if you never seen the distance in an immigrant’s eyes, then you never seen resistance in the form of a cry') and storytelling well in the reconstructive '50 Thousand Deep' about the 1999 WTO riots in Seattle which he attended himself. A great socio-historical piece is 'Morning Of America' with Geologic summarizing the eighties, the years of his youth, in just one song, bundling some critical moments in US history 'Not more than twelve months after Lennon got shot, Bob died same year Mumia got locked'.

Besides the rapper, there’s the producer. Sabzi, who recently propelled the (also on MassLine Media) Common Market album to a 'mighty phat'-rating, once again surprises with his utterly subtle and professional (there was assistance by engineer Martin Feveyear, who worked with the Presidents Of The USA, a.o.) approach on production, cultivating a range of jazz-inspired beats, never sounding much alike or too monotonous, turning 'Bayani' into a musical adventure. From the triumphant brass in 'North By Northwest', over the electro funk of the title track, the sunshinelessness of '50 Thousand Deep' or even the minimalist beat to 'Back Home', Sabzi yet again fails to disappoint once.

A unique combination of sharp lyricism and distinctive production, 'Bayani' is Blue Scholars at their best. Matured and sharper, Sabzi and Geology are heading for ultimate recognition, puttin the Northwest on the rap map for now and beyond.

POSTED ON 06|20|2007 by cpf

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