Interview: Blue Scholars at NPR

The Record with Ann Powers: “Grind and Shine: Blue Scholars.”

ARTISTS: In the early 2000s in Seattle, Blue Scholars performed the essential task of bringing hip-hop to music lovers who weren’t all that familiar with hip-hop, but were willing to give it a chance. Rapper George Quibeyen, better known as Geologic, and DJ/producer Sabzi Sabzi (born Alexei Saba Mohajerjasbi) are big reasons why today — as opposed to 15 years ago — a rap concert is something the average Seattleite might attend on a Friday night.

The duo’s ultramelodic, super-sincere style also resonates especially well with tweens, which has helped their audience beyond Seattle grow as other artists take over the slot of most-buzzed about local act. Blue Scholars is currently regrouping, promoting new album Cinemetropolis more independently than ever before, looking forward to non-Scholars projects with California residents. Geo is set to release music with rapper Bambu; Sabzi will pursue his nascent rap-inspired headphone pop group Made in Heights, with singer Kelsey Bulkin.

SETTING: The Station, 2533 16th Ave. South, Beacon Hill


At the Station in Beacon Hill, the Blue Scholars are stars — and family. Geo and Sabzi are buddies with the owner, Luis Rodriguez, and his staff. As we talked in this small, warm-spirited establishment, the sound of a barista scraping Mexican chocolate into drinks mingled with the yelps of Geo’s kindergarten-aged son and his friends as they played a game on Dad’s laptop. The scene felt comfortably hyper-local. The Blue Scholars are clearly still rooted here. But the Internet is helping this most emblematic Seattle hip-hop pair go international in new, exciting ways, as they revealed to us in the final interview of our series on Seattle hip-hop, Grind And Shine.

ANN POWERS: When Blue Scholars came on the scene in the mid-’00s, fans and critics loved you for representing the diversity of Seattle — the multi-ethnic nature of the neighborhoods here.

SABZI: I don’t like the word diversity.

GEO: For the record, let it be known that Ann made scare quotes with her fingers when she said the word, “diversity”!

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