The next installment of the series by Gugundeep Kaur, REWIND, focuses on a lesser known rap group that hails from Seattle.
Blue Scholars are a very underrated group, especially in the UK since I don’t know anybody who has heard of them before. The group is more contemporary but their earlier music was put out over a decade ago.
The duo consists of the vocals of MC Geologic (George Quibuyen) and the production power of DJ Sabzi/Prometheus Brown (Saba Mohajerjasbi). The two met at Washington University and began creating music and performing together as Blue Scholars in 2002. The pair have since been collaborating with other artists. Their innate chemistry shows through the brilliant meshing of vocals and beats in their music.
The children of immigrants, Sabzi and Geo tell the most poetic stories of imperialism, the diaspora and cultural hybridity in a way that resonates with many because, unlike many rappers, Blue Scholars not only reference history but they engage with it in a way that truly ‘schools’ the audience whilst tapping into very personal histories. This is evident in their song “No Rest for the Weary” which analyses class, labour and religion, within the context of Filipino imperialism. On this song, Sabzi reworks the slow, melancholic sounds of Cat Stevens’s “Daytime”, showing off their immense productive capabilities. Within a lot of rap there is almost an assumption that all political rap has the power to educate, which is mostly true, but Blue Scholars teach lessons that are of an unrivalled intellectual calibre; especially through their deft discussions of colonial history, film, literature and contemporary politics.
What marks Blue Scholars as unique is that not only is it politically conscious rap, but the intellect that they display is insane. The knowledge of world history, sociology, Marxism, imperialism, revolution, class, gender politics and more makes the group so informative as well as lyrically genius in the way their verses are constructed, both verbally and sonically. The sound of Blue Scholars is at times reminiscent of Beirut in its richness but also the electric nature of their sound, which also reminds me of Gorillaz. Some instruments such as the tabla drums used on “Anna Karina” and the sounds of “Rani Mukerji” exhibit a fusion of classic South Asian sounds with electronic beats, which layered alongside their rap makes for an extremely niche form of rap, but one that works brilliantly. The way in which the group shows the diaspora is productive because they sample sounds from all over the world in a way that shifts the classic narrative of what can be done with rap and the groups to which the genre is able to speak.
- Evening Chai
- Life and Debt
- Yuri Kochiyama
- Proletariat Blues
- No Rest for the Weary
- May Day