The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts March 14, 2008

Blue Scholars Coax Call and Response from the 'Sco

People from Seattle can often be shamelessly proud of their Emerald City, and the Blue Scholars show at the ’Sco on Saturday was an excuse for Oberlin’s Seattle contingent to bask in their Northwest-iness without causing annoyance.

The duo, who came together in a hip-hop program at the University of Washington, have received awards and acclaim from all walks of liberal, Seattle life.

The Scholars’ distinctive take on social and political issues, particularly those rooted in the Northwest, is informed by their unique cultural and musical backgrounds. Sabzi, who works the Scholars’ beats and turntables, is an Iranian American and a trained jazz pianist. Vocalist Geologic, the son of Filipino immigrants, brings his experience with spoken-word poetry to the table.

There was no room for the standard-issue Oberlin cynicism at Saturday’s show, which was part of the Asian-American Student Conference. Though Oberlin students do not tend to turn up their noses at issues of race, class or war — which the Scholars’ lyrics earnestly tackle — it was a bit difficult for some audience members to connect with these issues in the absence of humor or irony.

One spot that was difficult for some to take seriously was the call-and-response of “My people!” in one of the songs. Since most lyrics surrounding the chorus were indecipherable, it wasn’t clear who “my people” were and why everyone seemed to be so excited about them.

Whatever humor or light touch the Scholars lacked they made up for with sheer verve. Hours afterwards, an excited student who had been at the show posted on the Oberlin Confessional: “Blue Scholars were amazing. So, so much energy.”

Hometown shout outs aside, the Scholars also made sure to tap into whatever Ohio pride managed to elbow its way into the ’Sco that night. Early in the show, Geologic singled out someone in the front, “Hey, don’t you work at that burrito place in town?”


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