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"Bayani" marks a creative and emotional leap forward for Blue Scholars. The four years since recording their first album has been marked by four years of war and uncertainty. People everywhere are looking for answers, growing tired of the banality and repetitiveness of the music and culture that currently dominates the airwaves. Similar to the wave of protest music that emerged during the Vietnam war, "Bayani" is a statement record stamped with the anger, depression and the slowly emerging hope of these uncertain times. Less sloganeering and more storytelling, Bayani showcases a more focused Geologic and a polished Sabzi coming into their own as a premier DJ-emcee duo. "The Distance" tells the story of a working-class immigrant, accompanied by a dark melodic soundscape that recalls a Philippine dance song. Geo also flexes his narrating skills on "Joe Metro," an ode to Seattle's lone form of public transportation and "50 Thousand Deep," recalling the 1999 "Battle in Seattle" at the historic WTO protests.
"...easily one of the most poignant, important, and best albums ever to come from the Northwest." -- www.ThreeImaginaryGirls.com
Bayani stands as Blue Scholars' most impressive achievement. -- Charles Mudede, The Stranger
Sabzi has honed his production...with influences as far-flung as Marvin Gaye and Aphex Twin -- Biran Barr, The Seattle Weekly
This record is what hip-hop was made for...an example of the perfect album falling into the public's hands at the perfect time. -- www.ThreeImaginaryGirls.com
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Here's an album that speaks on current and relevant issues without preaching. Geologic's flow is relentless yet calm accompanied by Sabzi's Production which is unique and matches the content in each track. This is an album your going to play top to bottom, over and over.
Also note they have another album and a EP, both great.
The first thing that jumps out is Sabzi's excellent production. Although his beats do possess the slightly mechanical quality commonly seen in today's underground hip hop, his beats are frequently beautiful. His dense, layered beats maintain a consistent tempo and vibe. They're smooth, soulful, and peaceful, and despite their high quality they never really grapple for the listener's ear with the lyrics. This is a sign of great chemistry. The instrumentation is wonderful and it seems like each beat fits each verse so well. Sabzi has a great ear for piano lines, and many of his productions are built around a nice keyboard line.
Geologic took a little getting used to for me, but I came to love his performance too. A proud son of Filipino immigrants, he has so much to talk about and makes for a compelling rapper. He grew up in military housing and maintains a political agenda through most of his verses. He often speaks of the struggles of an American immigrant and the problems resulting from racism in our society. He stays relevant throughout the album. Besides this, he has a gift for lyricism, and many of his verses come across as poetic. His rhyme structure and references are artistic and clever. His delivery is a bit slow and monotonous. I sometimes wish he'd very up his flow a little to show some more emotion. Sometimes he sounds a bit awkward on the mic, but he takes himself very seriously and is really effective. A little more swagger could do him good, but for the political and social purposes of this album he accomplishes his task excellently.
After the "Baha'i Healing Prayer (Intro)," the album opens with "Second Chapter," a short introductory track where Geologic drops some brief wisdom over a flute-laden beat. "Opening Salvo" assesses a social culture and its ways, with simple, midtempo production. "North By Northwest" has pumping, soulful horn fanfare on an upbeat track, representing their frequently overlooked region and hip hop scene. On the next song, Sabzi lays down some classy and catchy piano chords, and Geologic maintains his status as just an "Ordinary Guy" despite his occupation. Without a doubt my favorite song is "Still Got Love," possibly my favorite song of 2007. Sabzi and Geologic both lend their finest performances on this song. Sabzi's production is incredible: a loopy synthesizer line weaves in and out of a tight horn-laden arrangement, and his percussion and bass instrumentation is perfect. At the end, a gorgeous trombone solo kicks in, just cementing this song's musical perfection. Geologic's verses emit an optimistic philosophy, expressing love towards friends, even those who haven't shown love. The hook is great and so are his rhymes: "Not everybody talks, but everybody lies / Not everybody lives, but everybody dies..." The song is nearly seven minutes long, but you still won't want it to end. "Bayani" again looks at an American lifestyle, but doesn't so much point out its problems as simply observes. "Loyalty" has smooth, soulful production, and "Fire for the People" has thumping beats and relevant lyricism. The creeping beat of the "Xenophobia (Interlude)" gives way to "The Distance," an ode to the struggle, strive, and work ethic of the modern immigrant. The effective anti-war statement of "Back Home" ("So the next time you see recruiters in your school or your crib / Tell 'em thank you for the offer, but you'd rather you lived") nicely complements the subtle appeal of "50 Thousand Deep," a catchy call for a quiet revolution. "Morning of America" is simply powerful, covering many facets of American life from the media to politics and basically everything Geo saw growing up, all in one sweeping and flawless stride. The album closes with perhaps the most beautiful song of all, "Joe Metro." Geologic takes the listener to the inside of a Seattle subway car, and notes the way the different races and classes interact, observing a need for change.
"Bayani" is artistic and beautiful hip hop music. I look forward to hearing more from this duo in the future. They are a talented act with something important to say and a message that should be heard. They are unique in their quest and skill, and hopefully the hip hop community at large will embrace them and appreciate them on a large scale.
The Blue Scholars bring their strongest work to the table for their most anticipated album of their still-growing career - "Bayani". Geologic stepped up his rhymes from the last two albums nicely. His lyrics are more focused and concise than before. It's pure poetry filled with some of the most outstanding political and socially consciousness in hip-hop today. He is arguably the most intelligent protest rapper to come along in the past 5 years. But on the other hand, as track 5 exemplifies, they are just "Ordinary Guys". The statements made aren't overtly political, and can be respected by most anyone besides your right wing extremists.
Sabzi has also really grown over the course of the last 2 albums. His production is jammed packed with ideas just as fresh as Geologic's rhymes. I have always loved Sabzi's production, as it's always been very soulful and unique from the norm, even in underground circles. He's nearly today's equivalent of DJ Premier. His timing is ridiculously on-point, and it seems his soundscapes have their very own stream of consciousness. He brings a lot of emotion to the table with only the beats, it makes the album feel that much more personal. All the production is kept in-house, and handled by Sabzi, which is nearly unheard of nowadays.
The Blue Scholars have been one of my favorite groups since I saw them perform live with Zion I in Minneapolis right after the "Long March EP" was released (also essential material!). Their live show still stands as one of my favorite hip-hop shows I have ever seen (and I've seen close to 60). The duo was so tight together; Sabzi would even do the back-up vocals to all their songs. Their unity was, and still is just incredible.
Overall, The Blue Scholars have created an album that will stand the test of time. It's also incredible that after only two underground releases under their belt, that "Bayani" was picked up by Rawkus Records. The quality of the record can only heighten their respect as they are finally getting a shot at some major distribution. The Blue Scholars have been blowing up from day one, and they will continue to do so. Be sure to peep out what may be the best hip-hop album of 2007.