Sunday, October 16, 2011


by Blue Scholars

I know this album came out a while ago, but I've never quite gotten around to writing about it, mostly because I think I haven't picked up on all of its messages yet.

This fifteen track album, called a 'visual soundtrack' by the group, really represents growth in the Scholars, both musically and lyrically.  When I first heard it, I was disappointed that it wasn't more like Bayani, their last release, but then this started growing on me in a number of ways.

Each track other than the first and last is named after someone, usually a filmmaker or a left-wing activist.  As such, the album honors people like Seijun Suzuki, Lalo Schifrin, George Jackson, Rani Mukerji, Chief Sealth (more commonly known as Chief Seattle), Anna Karina, and Tommy Chong.  Many of the songs don't actually mention the person they honor, but instead strive to do so through thematic means.

One of my favourite tracks, Yuri Kochiyama, is much more directly about the influence that activist, who was present when Malcolm X was shot, had on Geo, the Blue Scholars's MC.  It also has one of the more infectious hooks on the album ("I swear to my kosamas, when I grow up I want to be just like Yuri Kochiyama").

Musically, Sabzi has really stripped his beats down to the most minimal possible.  Again, at first, I was disappointed, because I preferred the more lush approach taken on past projects, but with repeated listening, I grew to love what he's done here.

The Blue Scholars are an important, if often overlooked hip-hop group.  They have a different perspective from most of their brethren, which makes sense considering they are a Seattle-based group consisting of a Filipino-American rapper who grew up in Hawaii, and an Iranian-American producer who is Baha'i. They are a very progressive group in terms of their politics, and I wish they had a wider audience.  Even when I don't agree with them (which is rare), I appreciate their perspective and drive, and I applaud the fact that they financed and promoted this album through Kickstarter.

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