Smells Like OOF!

(Sorry to all my readers, I meant to get this up last night, but got back later than anticipated have been packing to head back to school.)

Today’s Seattle hip hop scene owes everything to the Blue Scholars.  For nearly a decade after Sir Mix-A-Lot won the 1993 Grammy for “Baby Got Back,” Seattle’s hip hop scene suffered a long standing drought (this wasn’t helped by city officials who banned all-ages hip hop shows).  Though some local artists such as Boom Bap Project and Grayskul gained some notoriety in the underground scene and signed with Minneapolis based label Rhymesayers, it wasn’t until the Scholars-led local Mass Line label started to garner national attention that the Seattle hip hop scene exploded.

Although today’s 206 hip hop scene has diversified from the conscious sound of that marked its resurgance, the next generation of Seattle emcees that includes the likes of Dyme Def, Grynch, Fresh Espresso, and KnowMads, must recognize that much of their future success is owed to those that came before them.

I’ve been a huge fan of Blue Scholars since I was a freshman at Garfield (I am now legally obligated to give a shout out to the Class of 2008).  I was drawn by emcee Geologic’s profound, labor conscious lyrics backed by Sabzi’s amazing beats and glossy production that draws influence from jazz to ska to local rock and has become a staple of Blue Scholars and Common Market albums.  With each release, from Blue Scholars to The Long March EP to Bayani to yesterday’s OOF! EP both members of the group have evolved artistically.  Geo’s lyrics have become more intricate and Sabzi miraculously keeps on finding ways to top himself.

The result of this artistic growth became evident again yesterday with the release of their latest masterpiece OOF!.  Though short in length (six tracks and six instrumentals), this EP is the best work top-to-bottom even surpassing The Long March EP (I’ve already explained the reasons I love EPs and shorter albums)…the simple fact is that every song is a classic.  The album itself represents a break from typical Scholars material.  While they maintain their blue collar mentality, Geologic goes back to his origins in Hawaii to offer an image of the islands not seen by to the mainland or vacationers.  Meanwhile, Sabzi backs him up with beats highly influenced by local music.

Those of you who have been following the Blue Scholars will recognize the lyrics off of the opening track “Bananas” as the spoken word piece that Geo did for Songs For Eating & Drinking earlier this year (I haven’t decided whether I like the a capella or Sabzi-backed track more, but both are amazing: There's a whole lot of cheddar at the top now/ But fuck tryin' to climb up, let's bring the top down).  Next up is HI-808, an ode to island life (check the video), followed by my favorite track on the album, “Coo?”, a track which makes a nod to the past and sounds much like the old school hip hop that Geo references in the song.  The album finishes strong with more party-oriented (but still amazing) tracks “New People,” “Hello,” and “Cruz.”

Anyway you look at it, OOF! is classic material and proof that the Scholars are finally gaining mainstream prominence.  Today OOF! hit #2 on iTunes for Hip Hop/Rap, behind only Eminem's Relapse.  I highly recommend copping it (let's make it #1) and I’ve included my favorite Blue Scholars track from each of their releases thus far.

Peace, Love, & OOF!

"No Rest For the Weary"

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