Thanks to Gavel Media’s fabulously large piggy bank, last week I was sent across the country to the West Coast on a business trip (first class flight, thank you very much), free of charge, to research new music for this blog. Teacher livin’ the life.
PSYCH. Any self-respecting Gavelier would NEVER fly first class. We’re too hipster for that.
But I was on the west coast for the week visiting my brother in Tacoma, Washington, about an hour south of Seattle. And let me tell you, I didn’t want to come back.
The weather. The weather. The weather. If you’re a native of New England, then you would fall in love with the weather of the Pacific Northwest, just like I did. The average forecast for the week hovered around 65 and sunny. HEAVEN.
Not to mention that it’s an outdoorsman’s paradise. We went golfing at Chambers Bay (home of the 2015 US Open for all of you golf fans out there) and I just couldn’t stop taking pictures. There were mountains EVERYWHERE. For tourists, the biggest attraction was Mount Rainier, the most topographically prominent mountain in the contiguous US. You’d think it was a celebrity. Every time we were outside and someone saw it, it was like:
On top of all of this, Seattle is like the coolest, most hipster city in the entire world. Alright that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but have you been there? I didn’t think so. Let me sum it up for you: Coffee, seafood, and grunge music. I’m fairly certain that there may be more to the largest city in the Pacific Northwest than that, but you get the idea. Needless to say, I’m moving to the West Coast in the future (Don’t worry, Boston will always be my home).
The night before I began my first class trip out west (Again, kidding. Crying babies don’t exactly qualify as first class), I was researching bands to write about this week with my best friend Maddie when she cranked out a brilliant idea. So brilliant, in fact, that it possibly qualifies her as one of the greatest thinkers of the 21st century: “You should write about a Seattle band!”
Duh. Of course. Wish I’d thought of it. But hey, you can’t win them all.
Fake Lesson #4: When your friend has a brilliant idea, write a blog about her.
Real Lesson #4: Support the locals.
When I first came to Seattle, I was stoked out of my mind about exploring the music scene. Finding a new artist from the Northwest was my Nintendo 64.
Okay maybe it wasn’t that extreme. That’s just not natural. It’s actually a bit scary… and demonic… but that’s beside the point.
However, I must admit I was overly excited about getting away from the East Coast for a bit and enjoying everything Seattle had to offer – from the weather to the food to the music.
Most music fanatics know that Seattle is famous for being about five years ahead of the rest of the country in terms of music. From bringing grunge bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam out from the underground into the national spotlight, to playing host to a number of indie bands such as Modest Mouse and Death Cab for Cutie, those producers out in Washington know what’s up and what will be big in the next couple of years.
Recently Seattle’s underground hip hop scene has been huge. Okay, not that huge since it’s underground and all. But with a number of artists following in the footsteps of Seattle native Sir Mix-A-Lot, the hip hop in Seattle is a breath of fresh air compared to that of the East Coast. It’s raw, relatively free of auto-tune, and a little reminiscent of the 90s kings of hip hop like Biggie Smalls and Tupac. After digging a little bit, I found my own very set of future hip-hop kings, Blue Scholars.
Geologic (“Geo”) and Sabzi, vocalist and beatmaster respectively, started jamming together while studying at the University of Washington. Their name is a play on the term “blue collar,” a term used to describe workers who earn hourly wages for manual labor.
From Filipino and Iranian decent, the duo prides itself on highlighting diversity and cultural exploration, a direction that aligns with Seattle, which has the most ethnically diverse zip code in the country. The two use their heritage as well as their college education to create a unique sound that the artists like to call “cinema art rap.”
It’s clear upon first listen that these guys have a message to get out. Despite their innovative instrumentation, including flute, piano, and acoustic guitar, and use of electronic sounds to create alluring opening salvos, these guys are all about the lyrics, which Sabzi made pretty clear when he opted to let go of his beats and make them available for public use.
From immigration to concern for the future to youth empowerment, Geo and Sabzi are focused on forging communities together to create change, starting in the Northwest and expanding to eventually the world. Geo’s words, stemming from a strong background in spoken word poetry, are filled with social justice pleas, criticisms of authority, and the endearing inner workings of a conscience that has genuine concern for our society and its future.
Check out a few of my favorite songs from their four EPs and three full-length albums, "North by Northwest," "Joe Metro," and "Seijun Suzuki:”
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, these guys don’t fall victim to being bought out by some big shot record label. Instead, they started their own: MassLine Media, in 2006 – that’s pretty awesome.
First, Seattle, then, the world? I think so. I’m sure that the Blue Scholar name won’t only be privy to hipsters for long. These guys are going to make it big someday. They’ll always be hard working, but they won’t be blue collar forever.
You can find more of Blue Scholars' music on iTunes, Spotify, Youtube, or Soundcloud. You can also check them out when they come to the Paradise Rock Club in Boston on December 16.
Featured image screenshot by Mary Yuengert/Gavel Media.