Blue Scholars is the revered veteran of the Seattle hip-hop scene, dropping tracks about Seattle pride and social struggles for the better part of a decade. Macklemore and Shabazz Palaces may be making headlines, but the Scholars duo of MC Geologic and DJ Sabzi continues to experiment and produce consistently great material. Geo keeps busy but helping out other local acts (like his cameo in Brother From Another’s music-video ode to Molly Moon's) and Sabzi recently stepped out from behind the turntable to take a shot at rapping. His new track "Wassup Pham" addresses a topic too long ignored by the greater hip-hop world: pho.
Blue Scholars is set to kick off its second touring cycle behind 2011’s Cinemetropolis with two shows at Showbox at the Market this week, November 30 (sold out) and December 1. The duo has also hinted that new material will be leaked soon via video.
For our latest Fiendish Conversation we chatted with Geo about Seattle hip-hop’s banner year, the Sonics, and going back to school (literally).
As a veteran of the scene, what do you think is the state of Seattle hip-hop today?
It’s bigger than ever—2012 has definitely been the biggest. Obviously you’ve got Macklemore doing big things. It’s completely different than what it was five years ago; and even then, five years ago was different than five years before that. It’s been a steadily growing thing. It’s always thriving, but the audience is now bigger. There always used to be the question: We have the talent, the music is here, and we have great performers, but will people pay attention? I think this year that question has been completely answered from an audience standpoint, from a press standpoint. It’s good to be doin’ it right now.
What made 2012 a breakout year for Seattle hip-hop?
It’s something people kind of knew was there, but didn’t know whether it would be just a temporary thing or if it was gonna stick around. There are many obstacles. The Internet has definitely opened the window for an audience both in our own backyard and beyond this region. There are venues that now allow hip-hop. That wasn’t even the case 10 years ago. There were maybe, at most, two to three venues that allowed hip-hop shows. Back in the day you had the Teen Dance Ordinance, so there was no such thing as all-ages shows. And hip-hop being a more youth-based audience, that didn’t help much. Of course, we have a great scene as far as music sharing and culture, such as our alt-weekly presses, which have always kept their ear to new stuff. We got KEXP out here. I think it was just all these things combined.
Who are the local up-and-comers in the scene that people need to hear?
One is The Physics. They’ve actually been around as long as us, but they’re just getting started with putting more content out and going on tour outside of Washington state. Also, Brothers From Another, super young dudes who’ll be on tour with us this coming December. There’s so much. I could name at least 20 more, but if the list got too long I’d get hit up with, “Why wasn’t I mentioned?” So we’ll leave it at that.
If you weren’t rapping, what other line of work would you pursue?
Right before we put out our first album, I was going to finish up my last quarter at U-Dub [UW], get my B.A., and actually go to grad school to hopefully become a teacher. It never happened, obviously; we started recording and touring and all that stuff. But that’s still not out of the question.
What subject did you want to teach?
Probably history. I’m one quarter away from completing a B.A. in history.
Are you ever planning on going back and finishing?
Oh yeah. I’m actually back in the system, meaning I could register for classes at any point. I’m already talking with professors to come back this spring, 2013, and finally be a class of 2013 U-Dub graduate.
What are your thoughts on the potential return of the Sonics?
I’m actually at my studio office right now and we are located in SoDo—right across the street is the south end of the property that Chris Hansen has bought up. So if and when it happens, I’ll be walking to games right after studio sessions. Really looking forward to that.
Nov 30 & Dec 1, Showbox at the Market, $18–$20