“We’re gonna sign a record deal — with you,” Blue Scholars rapping half Geologic told a small gathering of friends, family, fellow artists, and early supporters at the Theatre Off Jackson last night for the Cinemetropolis listening party and commencement of the album’s Kickstarter campaign. The beloved Seattle duo’s long-awaited third full-length, set to be released in June, is their most ambitious to date musically, conceptually, and from a business standpoint.
Cinemetropolis‘ public introduction at the former Wing Luke Museum formally began with a Powerpoint. Class was once again in session, this time with Geo and producer Sabzi detailing the evolution of the city’s most popular and prominent hip-hop group with a focus on their navigation of the ever-evolving music industry. Included in the presentation was a spreadsheet tracking the purchasers of the duo’s self-titled 2004 debut by name, underscoring Blue Scholars’ truly organic beginnings within the community. Their popularity came strictly from word of mouth and selling physical copies at high schools, with no help from the internet until much later in their careers. Entering at an awkward transitory stage where the old industry standard began to collapse and the internet was not quite the marketing and distribution tool it is now, they relied on word-of-mouth, old-fashioned hustle, and the strength of their music to jump start their rabid local following.
Now, after having tried various experimental deals with distributors and labels, both local and national, Blue Scholars are embarking on another foray into uncharted territories. Cinemetropolis will be funded by the fans with a Kickstarter campaign, a completely independent approach that both members hope will help the project push its creative limits.
“This is just us and you guys,” Geo told last night’s attendees, and with no label-imposed restrictions nor expectations of an album’s shelf life, he and Sabzi believe their “reverse movie soundtrack” will be able to become the audacious artistic adventure they envision. Both are film buffs, and with their upcoming album seek to create a sonic cinema with songs inspiring short films in partnership with select filmmakers.
Upon first listen, any collaborator should have plenty of material to work with. During a brief chat with Geologic, he emphasized that this particular project, at 4 years in the making, is the one that they have taken their most time on, which in turn afforded the project a greater variety of sounds and styles. Recent live favorite “Slick Watts” and its chipmunk bounce will apparently have a featurette in conjunction with the Sonicsgate crew. “Marion Sunshine,” which both Scholars said was one of their favorite tracks off the project (and I agree), features dreamy keys over some of Sabzi’s hardest drums to date; imagine “Sagaba” over Clipse’s “Grindin'” and you’re on the right track. “Seijun Suzuki,” named for the Japanese gangster B-movie mastermind, is fittingly grimy. “Oscar Grant” will be the album’s most talked about track with its refrain of “shoot the cops” and should make for fruitful filmmaking material.
The spring and summer promise to be busy for the Scholars on the solo tip as well, with both members working on side projects with LA’s Bambu. Working under his other rap name, Geologic’s Prometheus Brown and Bambu Walk Into a Bar will boast production by local heavyweights Budo, DJ Nphared, and Vitamin D, among others. Sabzi’s collaboration is “halfway done,” and the end of this month will see a 6-track spring release from another of his side projects, Made in Heights.
To make the wait for Cinemetropolis a little shorter, head on over to Blue Scholars’ Kickstarter and support the artists. Donors will receive copies in advance of their public release, get all types of scholarly swag, and be kept up-to-date on all album happenings. Visit http://bluescholars.com/cinemetropolis/ and do the right thing.
Check out the premiere of “Slick Watts” last year at Capital Hill Block Party.
2. Slick Watts
3. Seijun Suzuki
4. Anna Karina
5. Fou Lee
6. Lalo Schifrin
7. Oscar Grant
8. Yuri Kochiyama