This article isn’t completely politically correct but you’ll learn some tunes. We’ve already dispatched the author to a political re-education camp north of the border so save your complaints and plug in your headphones.
Striking back with tunes that would make Eminem crawl into a ball and die if only he had the taste to listen to them; Blue Scholars are the tip of the spear when it comes to progressive hip hop. Sadly Marshall Mathers is probably too busy writing songs about murdering his ex-wife for this to happen but thankfully Seattle hip hop is there to help us forget he exists.
Hip hop and rap music has a poor reputation when it comes to sexism, violence, the romanisation of drug use and many other things people frown at. If not taken too seriously, this type of music can still be quite enjoyable but its understandable that a lot of people just turn it off and walk away.
Things have moved on since the stereotypical days of the East Coast-West Coast rap wars but attempts to introduce progressive politics to the genre remain patchy with a lot of it being notably preachy. Your main exposure to such efforts have probably been selfies of your leftist mates going to gigs by The Coup and quietly clicking ‘hide updates’ on facebook. If you skipped that concert to stay at home drinking cans and howling along to (1980s) Billy Bragg records, you made a good call. Yes we’re right, that is The Coup’s only good song.
Blue Scholars are a Seattle hip-hop outfit consisting of DJ Sabzi on beats and MC Geologic on vocals. Sabzi is like that kid you knew in primary school who’d already mastered three instruments while you were still blasting out Greensleeves on the recorder. Geo is the guy who just stole your romantic interest in the smoking area after 30 seconds of being the most interesting man in the room. You can probably guess that their name references blue collar workers and the every-day struggle; with their songs continuing in the same vein.
Lets start with John DeLorean, a rap song about time travel in a Belfast-made car. In the space of the first verse you get references to avenging the death of Black Panther Freddie Hampton, arming the Katipunan revolution of 1896 in the Philippines and proving that Jesus wasn’t Caucasian. Pretty good? Stay with us.
Sagaba is your counter-point to every rap song that ever objectified women. Taking a random street interaction, the verse describes a dialogue between a man and a woman as they explore their own backgrounds and differences in a rare song that finds the thin line between romanticism and respect:
Opposites attract, but if not we stay honest
She told me that it’s better to be critical than conscious
Lets move on. No Rest For The Weary is a song you could kick-flip to while listening to lyrics about fighting Columbus as he arrived on the shores of North America. Joe Metro is one of the best tracks you’ll find about getting the bus and paying attention to the people around you. Bruise Brothers establishes their political manifesto: ‘This resistance is more than just a fist in a wristband’. Yuri Kochiyama is about the woman of the same name who held Malcolm X in her arms while he died and once occupied the Statue of Liberty for Puerto Rican independence. The Decisive Moment eloquently deals with privilege and class. May Day mixes a murky beat with lyrics about gun crime and being a victim of geography, something far more suitable than The Internationale for the day that’s in it.We’ll finish this with Self-Portrait. If rap was ever supposed to capture the frustration of urban youth but got lost in a tired web of misogyny and masculine posturing, then this is the cure. Listen & learn; Blue Scholars are doing the second part of (1) agitate (2) educate (3) organise. We’ll do the rest.
When I grow up I wanna be just like Yuri Kochiyama