The Blue Scholars have become a local phenomenon in Seattle. In six months, the hip-hop duo's MC, Geologic, says he and partner DJ Sabzi have blown through an initial pressing of 5,000 copies for rece
The Blue Scholars have become a local phenomenon in Seattle. In six months, the hip-hop duo's MC, Geologic, says he and partner DJ Sabzi have blown through an initial pressing of 5,000 copies for recent EP "The Long March." The pair were also recently tapped to play the main stage of Seattle's Sasquatch Festival in May, alongside such top national acts as the Flaming Lips and Nine Inch Nails.
Indie retailer Sonic Boom confirms "The Long March" was a top seller during the holidays. Meanwhile, a self-titled, self-released 2004 full-length debut has sold 8,000 units in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, with 83% of them coming from the Seattle area. Geologic, however, puts the number at about 10,000 copies. To help with distribution, the album was licensed till the end of the year to local label Light in the Attic.
"At the start, we didn't even explore the possibility of shopping the album to a major or hooking up with an indie," Geologic says. And now the Blue Scholars never plan to.
The politically minded duo, marked by Geologic's working-class calls for action and Sabzi's jazzy backdrops, recorded its debut in 2003. It took about a year, but eventually the Blue Scholars saved the $3,000 it cost to master the album and press an initial batch. The Seattle Weekly responded by naming it album of the year, and the University of Washington's (UW) adult alternative KEXP Seattle-Tacoma began regularly playing the act. The duo also won a second-stage slot at the 2005 edition of the Sasquatch Festival.
"We saw other people do this on their own successfully, with success meaning the ability to sell at least 4,000 CDs locally and have enough local pull to open the next Ghostface show, for example," Geologic says.
Going forward, the Blue Scholars will handle all label duties themselves. This month, they announced the launch of their own indie, Mass Line Records. Geologic says they are shopping for distribution and are close to a deal.
For Mass Line, the Blue Scholars took inspiration from Minneapolis label Rhymesayers Entertainment. The latter has helped to define its city's hip-hop scene, establishing a well-regarded shop and a nationally known act in Atmosphere.
Mass Line will start its mission of unifying the Seattle rap scene by hosting monthly open-mic and cultural events. In October, the label will release the debut from Common Market, which features Sabzi, a classically trained pianist who has also played drums in a ska-punk band. A new Blue Scholars album will follow in early 2007.
And in a sure sign that Geologic and Sabzi are dedicated to their hip-hop pursuits, the two UW grads have quit their day jobs.
"We approach art and the music that we make as something that has to seek a higher purpose," Geologic says. "It cannot be art for art's sake."