From humble beginnings at the University of Washington in the early half of the decade to rocking stages across the country, Blue Scholars have risen to be the premiere force in the local hip hop scene.
How big of a force are they? The Scholars are one of the few local hip-hop groups that tours (they’re coming off a recent east coast stint), their Capitol Hill Block Party set earlier this year nearly outshined headliners Dead Weather and on Wednesday they will be headlining a bill of local hip hop at the Paramount Theatre as part of City Arts Fest.
“This is a time to really let people know Blue Scholars is a huge force in Seattle,” Steve Severin, co-booker for the festival, said about the Paramount concert.
Severin said even though the group, which consists of MC Geologic and DJ/producer Sabzi, has sold out consecutive nights at Neumos and the Showbox most people don’t know how big of a deal Blue Scholars are within the local scene.
“A lot of people don’t realize Blue Scholars can sell out one night at the Showbox, and these are people who are in the music business in Seattle that are involved with some pretty big labels and they have no clue. This show is a chance to do a really special show to let people know Blue Scholars really is a behemoth in Seattle.”
While the Paramount show won’t be the group’s biggest local performance (they opened for Kanye West at Bumbershoot in 2006) it does represent an important moment for the city’s hip-hop scene. The Scholars will sharing the stage with friends they came up in the scene with in openers Mash Hall and Macklemore (also on the bill are Fresh Espresso and Brother Ali) so the show be not just be about how far the Scholars have come it will also represent how much the city’s hip-hop scene has grown.
A similar celebration was held last year during Go! Machine (which unfortunately isn’t happening this year). But unlike those shows which were limited to the 500 hundred or so capacity at the Crocodile, the Paramount will fit thousands and give the local talent an opportunity to reach a much larger audience during what City Arts Fest organizers are billing as the first time a local hip-hop group headlines the historic venue.
“Playing the Paramount isn’t really that big of a deal,”Geologic said sarcastically before breaking up into laughter.
“Seriously though, in a way it isn’t because every show we play I pretend it’s at the Paramount. So really it’s almost like a dream come true,” he said. “And to be able to do it with friends, I mean we’ve all been in the scene and making music at the same time, it make it really special.”
The Scholars are currently working on a new album so you can expect a healthy dose of unreleased material from the group’s upcoming record Cinemetropolis at the Paramount. Geologic wouldn’t be specific with a release date for the record, which is already one of the most highly anticipated local records of 2011, only stating it will be released in the first half of next year.
The record will be a first for the duo as it is a bit of a concept album. Geologic said the record explores the theme of how cinema and motion pictures effect our lives.
“We’ve had a lot of film references in our songs and song titles, like ‘North by Northwest’ so it’s something we’ve dealt with before in a way,” he said. “We’re the first generation to grow up with televisions screens always on. It’s something we accept that’s just there. I don’t think we stop to think about the impact it has on us. So each song on the album explores a theme of how moving pictures effect us.”
After talking about Cinemetropolis‘ concept Geo was quick to point out the record is a loosely conceptual album, not a stuffy or cheesy attempt at conceptual hip hop.
“Really though, it’s something that could be considered a concept album because it looks like it is one, but each song can be taken on its own individually outside of the concept,” he said. “It’s a door we purposefully left open.”
Although there is a theme that doesn’t mean the songs on Cinemetropolis won’t carry any of the forward-thinking messages the socially conscious group is know for sending with its music. Geo said including messages in his music is important to him but it isn’t something he intentionally sets out to do every time he picks up a pen to write rhymes.
“We don’t wake up every morning and think about how to put a message in our songs,” he said. “All I’m doing is just reflecting what I see and know in my daily life.”
Aside from the cinema theme, another thing making this record different from previous Blue Scholars efforts is that it will be the first Scholars record since Sabzi moved to New York. Geologic said the long distance relationship between the two hasn’t impacted how they create music.
“Really having Saba in New York isn’t much different than how we’ve done things in the past. We’ve always used the Internet to communicate even back when we started,” Geologic said. “The cool thing is that now I have an excuse to go to New York every once in a while.”
Between local hip hop headlining the Paramount and artists like Shabazz Palaces making noise on a national level, Geologic said he is optimistic about what the future holds for the city’s hip hop scene.
“Right now with the way things are going I do think it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “The most important thing in the scene right now is that there are so many different groups out there and each is taking a different approach to hip hop. I’m proud to be a part of this scene because of that.”