Blue Scholars Intellectually Stimulate Audience


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To listen to Blue Scholars is to be reminded of the ability of hip-hop to edify and stimulate. With two full-length albums and a collection of EPs to their name, the Seattle-based one-two punch of Geologic and Sabzi have a habit of carving singular niches. Blue Scholars' frontrunner status in the current generation's alternative hip-hop scene was on full display Tuesday night at Slim's in San Francisco, where they headlined a vivid showcase of West Coast independent hip hop.

Arriving at Slim's just around opening time, I stood in line with dozens of other hip-hop mavens in the chilly San Francisco evening. The buzz in the air was unmistakable, and the sheer ethnic diversity of the crowd brought a smile to my face. With its emphasis on multiethnic creative endeavors, it's not hard to understand why Seattle's hip-hop culture possesses such a large following here in the Bay Area. Upon receiving a short security check and an obligatory under-21 handstamp, I entered the already vibrant club. Oakland-based Jern Eye and Sacramento-based Delorean were already treating the audience to their talents, and the crowd was already growing ecstatic.

An hour passed. Out strode Bambu, one-half of the now-disbanded Filipino-American hip hop group Native Guns. Wearing a towel around his neck, Bambu smiled mischievously before launching into a spirited display of lyrical ferocity, eventually leading the audience in a rousing chorus of "Fuck if they don't like us,/You ain't gotta like us." By the time the frantic opening riff of "Slow Down" emanated victoriously from the speakers, Bambu had given the crowd an opening act to remember, delivering his lines with a smooth ferocity reminiscent of Eminem. Amid the raucous activity, the Los Angeles-based rapper found the time to engage in good-natured jests with the audience. Equally playful was his collaborator DJ Phatrick, a Chinese-American UC Berkeley graduate and music educator who established himself alongside Bambu in the Native Guns era.

Two hours in, the night was still young. As Bambu's departure finally paved the way for Blue Scholars to take center stage, the packed house at Slim's instantly teemed with renewed energy. Jumping onto the platform, Geologic, aka Prometheus Brown, greeted the San Francisco audience with a charismatic introduction along the lines of, "Man, this doesn't feel like a Tuesday night. This feels like a Saturday night!" The crowd responded in kind, saluting the MC as DJ Sabzi took up the set behind him to an equally enthusiastic roar of approval.

The duo immediately launched into a semi-chronological trip down memory lane, bringing their spirited brand of hip-hop to a set of lovingly rendered tracks from their self-titled debut album. Prancing around the stage, Geologic exuded the boundless energy of a natural MC. Beginning with the smooth jazz-tinged intro of "Sagaba"and segueing into the infectious hook of "Blue School," Blue Scholars brought ample style and substance to their closing act at Slim's.

Throughout the last hour of the venue, the Slim's crowd witnessed a seasoned hip-hop act whose live presence matches the powerful aura of their studio recordings. Between Geologic's gracefully controlled delivery and Sabzi's eclectic production, a vibrant palette of soulful beats and lyrical wordplay attained universal dimensions. From vistas of socioeconomic solidarity ("Loyalty," "Joe Metro") to reassessments of the genre's past, present and future in tracks like "North by Northwest" and "New People," Blue Scholars served up a cogent reminder of why they remain one of alternative hip-hop's finest independent voices.

Pop your scholar collar with David at [email protected]

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