Album Review: Cinemetropolis by Blue Scholars
by Tom “Wonderboy” Roth
It had been five years since Seattle hip-hop duo, Blue Scholars, released a full-length album. With the group’s emcee, Geologic, moving to New York and working on a number of other projects, it looked like the Northwest’s ambassadors of rap were going the way of the Supersonics, circa 2006.
But then they released Cinemetropolis.
Described by Geo as “a sort of reverse movie soundtrack”, Cinemetropolis is a new kind of album. For one, Blue Scholars cut out the middle-man, promoting, funding, and releasing the entire album via Kickstarter.com. Additionally, the $62,000 raised by loyal fans will fund the expense of making short films to go with each of Cinemetropolis’ tracks… all fifteen of them.
Lyrically, it’s not Geologic’s best album but that’s not to say Cinemetropolis isn’t profound. Unlike 2007’s Bayani, the messages on their new release don’t stare you in the face. They’re there, but they’re hiding. The exception to this rule is “Oskar Barnack – Oscar Grant” in which Geo – in seditious tones – encourages the masses to “shoot the cops/shoot the cops/take your cameras out your pockets, people”. Undoubtedly, Geo’s creativity is in full-force. “Ain’t no A’s or B’s/you all average/C this D?/get F’d if y’all asking” keeps with his educational theme when he apologizes to “any teacher’s suspended for the song”, a nod to a Spokane, WA high school teacher suspended in September of last year for passing out lyrics of a Blue Scholar track.
Behind the wheels, Sabzi takes things to another level. He successfully maintains the group’s signature sound, creating déjà-vu moments reminiscent of earlier releases. “Yuri Kochiyama” hints at Bayani’s “Loyalty” and “Fou Lee” is like a Far Eastern version of “Hi”. While nostalgia is fun, any tendencies of repetition are offset by entirely novel beats on the title track as well as “Fin”. “Seijun Suzuki” is as close as an indie Northwest rap duo dares come to a banger. The taiko drum infused rhythms are a nice touch.
Like Radiohead’s, In Rainbows, Cinemetroplis is a step forward in how artists approach music distribution. Producing listener-sponsored music videos for every track sounds like something more akin to public radio than a rap group. However, Geo and Sabzi seem to be of that rare breed that’s willing to truly innovate. They’re walking the walk while talking the talk and believe me, the talk is worth a listen.
Click here to hear Seijun Suzuki.