Things are hopping for hip-hoppers Blue Scholars
The Blue Scholars blazed through the back end of 2006 like a global-warming heat storm. Seattle's highly literate hip-hop duo opened for...
The Blue Scholars blazed through the back end of 2006 like a global-warming heat storm. Seattle's highly literate hip-hop duo opened for Kanye West at Bumbershoot, where MC George "Geologic" Quibuyen and DJ Alexei "Sabzi" Mohajerjasbi won over thousands of converts with a poised, powerful set at Memorial Stadium. That led to a string of capacity crowds around Seattle clubs for Blue Scholars (and its newly minted collective, Mass Line), capped by sold-out shows over the New Year's Eve weekend at Neumos.
With a new Blue Scholars album recorded and in post-production, you might figure the duo would go underground and chill out for a spell. Hardly. Sabzi has shows this month — Jan. 27 at Hell's Kitchen in Tacoma (with Blue Scholars also on the bill) and Jan. 31 at the University of Washington's HUB Ballroom — with his other politically charged duo, Common Market.
And this weekend, Geo jumps up on Chop Suey's stage with his new project: Good Medicine. Featuring four MCs, this is a pass-the-mic act, with solo act Macklemore and Abyssinian Creole rhymers Gabriel Teodros and Khalil Crisis (aka Khingz).
"It happened while we were individually working on our own projects," Quibuyen explained recently. "We all have kind of the same vibe but we all have very distinct deliveries and styles. It's from our love of some of the '90s four-piece groups, like Pharcyde and Goodie Mob."
Even considering Seattle's racially mixed music scene, Good Medicine is remarkably diverse: Macklemore, a Capitol Hill native, is white; Teodros is Ethiopian; Crisis is of African/Haitian ancestry; and Quibuyen is Filipino.
While Macklemore now lives in the U District, the rest of Good Medicine resides in Beacon Hill, where Filipinos, Asians, Latinos, Africans and African-Americans mix and mingle.
Although Good Medicine wasn't founded to preach about diverse cultures, Quibuyen said, "I think it'll come out, there's a lot of dialogue about it just from being in a room with each other. All four of us make an effort to put [ethnic backgrounds] in our music. Also we saw it as a natural reflection of Seattle itself ... there's a lot of hip-hop crews — like Oldominion — that are black, white, Asian, Latino, Native Americans, all kinds of folks in their camp."
He continued, "And Macklemore's got a song, 'White Privilege,' that's opened up dialogue in the scene, it's opened doors to people not just talking about it behind closed doors."
Musically, Good Medicine is very much a work-in-progress, with no set DJ/producer. "We solicited beats from a whole bunch of people. Of course Sabzi ... Macklemore's homeboy Budo, Abyssinian producer Kitone. Beyond that we're hiring anyone and everyone, Vitamin D, Bean 1. We planned it that way, to have a pool of beats and beatmakers."
The Good Medicine-led show at Chop Suey (9 p.m. Saturday, $7, all ages) probably won't draw as big a crowd as some of Blue Scholars' events. Still, said Quibuyen, "I'm a nervous wreck before every show, whether it's for three people or 3,000."
He hopes the audience won't expect a polished performance, as Good Medicine has only one performance (an after-Bumbershoot set) under its belt, and rehearsals tend to be, well, "unstructured" at best.
"A lot of times rehearsals are more like a dialogue than a rehearsal — four dudes who lead different lives talking. And Khalil freestyles all day every day. Sometimes you think you're having a conversation with him, and he's really preparing rhymes in his head. He's the most prolific of all of us."
Macklemore has a busy night, as he also performs at 9 p.m. Saturday at Neumos ($8, with Mob Law and Scream Club). He'll be dipping into his "The Language of My World" debut album for cuts like the soul-searching "White Privilege" ("am I just another white boy who's caught on to the trend?") and the satirical screed "Bush's Song" ("where's Dick Cheney?/probably out in Iraq/looking for some oil to tap").
• In the rock scene, Ballard's Sunset Tavern has a big week of local music, bookended by indie-pop singer Andrea Wittgens' performance at 7 tonight ($6) and Murder City Devils disciples the Whore Moans at 9 p.m. Thursday ($6). The latter will be playing from its debut CD "Watch Out for This Thing."
• Afropop superstar Thomas Mapfumo rises up at the Triple Door at 8 tonight ($25).
• Back in Ballard at the Tractor Tavern, singer-songwriters Mark Pickerel and Johanna Kunin pluck and ponder at 9 p.m. Saturday ($10), and Tim Seely and the riveting Jen Wood — you may recognize her voice from some Postal Service work — share a bill at 9 p.m. Thursday ($7).
• Metric singer and Broken Social Scene contributor Emily Haines brings material from her dynamic piano-pop CD to the Crocodile at 9 p.m. Saturday ($15). "Our hell is a good life," Haines sings on "Knives Don't Have Your Back." Opening for her are Brooklyn experimental folk rockers the Tall Firs — not to be confused with Seattle's Tall Birds, who rock out psychedelic style at 9 tonight at the Croc ($10). Read more on Haines in the accompanying story on Page 4.
• The mysterious chanteuse Willow (www.willowsmusic.com) sings at West Seattle's Skylark Café at 9 p.m. Thursday (no cover).
Tom Scanlon: firstname.lastname@example.org