Sunday, June 17, 2012

June 17: Blue Scholars, "Blue School"

Artist: Blue Scholars
Song: "Blue School"
Album: Blue Scholars
Year: 2004

As the 2000's began, it was nothing short of outright depressing to see the overly-predictable and largely uninspiring world that the hip-hop genre had become.  Dominated by songs and artists that seemed far more concerned with placing as much bass as possible on a track, and adding over it a smattering of meaningless lyrics that were often nothing short of offensive to listeners in terms of how low quality the rhymes were.  With the rise of digital downloads, this trend seemed to be set to get even worse, as the idea of making a complete album was being dumped in favor of creating just one single, and for a majority of true hip-hop fans, the mainstream sound had little to offer.  Thankfully, at any point in history where the dominant sound has become so lost in itself, there has been an underground movement that has served as a vital space for amazing artistry and for the true form of the style to thrive.  In the case of this era of hip-hop, some of the most promising sounds were coming from a rather unexpected place: Seattle, Washington.  Having been known as the "hotbed" for the "grunge" movement a decade earlier, the city was boasting some of the most vibrant and fresh hip-hop sounds in years, and at at the front of this movement were a duo going by the name Blue Scholars, and their 2004 self-titled debut remains easily one of the finest records that has come from the world of hip-hop in recent memory, and the track "Blue School" is without question one of the highlights from the album.

From the moment that "Blue School" begins, there is a levity to the track that is rarely heard within hip-hop music, and it is the bubbly bounce that the song offers which makes it instantly addictive.  The sound and energy that forms the backing track is nothing short of fantastic, and it has an originality that is second to none.  The work of producer DJ Sabzi throughout all of Blue Scholars is ex exceptional, but this is easily one of his most impressive arrangements, as the track manages to have enough of a bounce and beat to want to turn the volume way up, but at the same time it never interferes with the rapping, staying in the background of the song.  In many ways it is this reality which serves as a reminder of how important the "music" part is in the term "hip-hop music," and from the superb musical loop to the saxophone sounds, it is the groove of "Blue School" that almost demands the song to be played over and over.  It's the way that the overall sonic structure provides the flow of the track that puts the more mainstream, predictable sounds of the genre into perspective, as the vocals and music are truly a singular element, and it is one of the keys that makes "Blue School" such a standout track on an album that is absolutely stellar from end to end.

Working perfectly within this unique musical arrangement and mood, Blue Scholars emcee Geologic quickly makes his case as one of the most original and outright talented rappers of his entire generation.  At every turn on "Blue School," his voice has a power and presence that cannot be ignored, and he also manages to have a pull within his words that draw the listener in deeper and deeper.  There is not a moment on the track where his vocals seem in the least bit forced or unnatural, and it is the way that these rhymes flow so effortlessly that cements his place as an exceptional emcee.  While there is no getting past his fantastic tone, one can easily make the case that the true draw of the talents of Geologic lies within his absolutely phenomenal writing skills.  There is an honestly and authenticity within the rhymes of Geologic, and at the same time, many of the lines be brings on "Blue School" can be easily related to by people across the globe.  Whether he is speaking on the power of music to connect people that might have nothing else in common, or breaking down what hip-hop music is truly supposed to represent, it is the way that his lyrics are thought-provoking at every turn which not only prove his own place as one of the finest emcees of his generation, but the amazing chemistry he has with DJ Sabzi.

While many may wish to attempt to argue differently, the fact of the matter is that in general, the most exciting and engaging hip-hop music from the past decade has emerged from the so-called "underground" scene.  Whether this greatness comes from an original musical construction, a set of phenomenal lyrics, or an emcee or group that simply takes a completely different approach to the genre, it is within these artists who make a conscious choice to exist outside of the mainstream where the true "art" of the genre continues to thrive.  Among the finest performers to emerge in the past decade, Blue Scholars are without question one of the most impressive, as their ability to work nearly any musical combination with exceptional results quickly vaults them far beyond almost any of their peers.  It is the way that DJ Sabzi mixes together sounds from jazz, funk, and more modern sounds that makes the background of "Blue School" so enjoyable, and yet at the same time there are enough of the core elements of harder hip-hop to appease almost any music fan.  When these sounds are combined with the exceptional rhymes and rap flow of emcee Geologic, the overall impact of the track is vaulted far beyond almost anything else from the past decade of hip-hop, and there is no question that Blue Scholars' 2004 track, "Blue School" stands as a reminder that top-quality hip-hop is still being made, and should be praised for it's uniqueness and overall excellence.

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