SXSW 2008: Talking with Blue Scholars

It’s too bad I didn’t discover Blue Scholars earlier, say, in 2004 when I felt disillusioned and fed up with school during my freshmen year at the University of Washington. “Fuck class, get your education on the Ave,” the rallying cry of the song “The Ave,” was exactly what I wanted to do (video here). Finally listening to their debut EP got me hooked on underground hip-hop – that fiercely independent, worldwide, beat-infused CNN of the streets. This genre would become the soundtrack to my radio show. And whenever I miss home here in Austin, I play a Blue Scholars track. They are all about representing Seattle from the bottom up, from the Southside to the 2000 WTO riots to the daily ride on the Metro bus.

When I heard MC Geologic and producer Sabzi were coming to Austin for SXSW 2008, I arranged to skip work to interview them. I met them in their hotel room and had a wonderful chat with two of the most down-to-earth and inspiring “cultural workers” in the game right now. Tune in below the jump.

(I had the raw of this interview up after I did it last March, but my post died when I redesigned the site in September. It’s about time I get it back up – this time, the audio is diced nicely into clips. PDF of the full transcript here, raw mp3 here.)

On community radio:

“When we first got started the first folks who embraced us were college radio. . .it’s essential and I respect all the people that put in all the hard work, which I know it is.”

On SXSW, withstanding the pressures of commercialization, and party politics:

“There’s contradictions everywhere and we just gotta stay sharp. Also like Saba said we stay rooted in the community that we come from.”

On growing up and becoming politicized:

“I learned that there’s a difference between an activist and an organizer, basically. You can just be rah-rah-rah all the time and have your actions be limited to just vocalizing, and then you’re an activist.”

On the hip-hop inspired riot at Evergreen:

“You know, people are scared of the police, up and down. They can do what they want and get away with it. So to say that the people provoked it, I think is 99 percent of the time wrong.”

On masculinity and misogyny in hip-hop:

“Any time there’s a space, an open space, a space of resistance re-claimed by women and for women, I think it’s always going to be the brothers’ role to respect that and support it.”

On counter-recruitment and Seattle arsons targeted at gentrification:

“The principle behind being critical about new housing developments and how they displace people, all the class implications – it’s relevant and needs to be talked about more…Recruiters out of schools now!”

On Nas’ “Untitled” (also known as Nigger) album:

“The thing about Nas to me is that I think that guy has some integrity in him. When I listen to Nas I hear somebody who is more – like what he has to say is more important than how he thinks people who perceive him and maintaining his career.”

On file sharing:

“I still liberate music, back to where it belongs. It’s culture. Culture belongs to the people.”

On the next album, origins of the Prometheus Brown persona, and words for up and coming artists:

“In the words of Dead Prez, it’s bigger than hip-hop. And I think a lot of people get caught up in boxes…I think there’s a lot of groups, when they get started, they only see, like, “Ima be the biggest thing on my block.”

On the news media:

“I just default to thinking things are more messed up than they are…There’s nothing more democratic than doubt.”

Thanks for listening! Feel free to copy and re-broadcast the interview.

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