Educated hip-hop


POSTED: Friday, September 18, 2009

Hip-hop has shown Hawaii nothing but love in 2009.

Mainstream superstars Dr. Dre and Kanye West both spent time at a local recording studio earlier this year, and the Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon filmed a music video for his latest single during a visit to Oahu this summer. Even rapper Fat Joe released a track, “;Aloha,”; that pays homage to our state.

Of all the Hawaii-related hip-hop that's dropped so far this year, however, it's the Seattle-based Blue Scholars who score the most points with their latest EP, “;Oof!”; One track, “;HI-808,”; is all about life in the islands, while another melds a Jawaiian-style beat with the backpack rap stylings that brought the duo to the forefront of Seattle's hip-hop scene.





        Blue Scholars with local openers Creed Chameleon and the Deadbeats

» Where: LOFT Gallery and Lounge, 115 N. Hotel St.


» When: 9 p.m. tonight and Sept. 25 (18 and over)


» Cost: $20


» Info: 521-8008 or bampproject.com


» Note: Blue Scholars will also perform tomorrow on Maui and Sept. 26 on the Big Island




“;I spent nearly a third of my life there,”; explained George “;Geologic”; Quibuyen, who lived in Salt Lake during the '80s while his Filipino immigrant father served in the Navy. “;I grew up in military housing by Aliamanu Elementary ... around a bunch of people that I remember looked like me (and) talked like me.”;

That all changed in 1990 when Quibuyen, who was 10 years old at the time, moved with his older brother and three younger sisters to Washington state with his parents. It was the first time he felt out of place because of his ethnicity.

“;I never really felt that I really fit in,”; he said. “;To suddenly, in sixth grade, realize that you're different, it played a big role in shaping me.

“;I think that was probably the seed for me being so politicized, since that was the time when Ice Cube and Public Enemy were coming out. It was the soundtrack for what I was feeling inside.”;

After graduating from high school, Quibuyen continued on to the University of Washington, where he studied history and American studies while also getting involved with the college hip-hop scene. It was during this time period that he met producer/DJ Saba “;Sabzi”; Mohajerjasbi, and the two began to work together as the Blue Scholars.

From 2001 to 2004 Quibuyen and Mohajerjasbi fleshed out their sound and released their self-titled debut and “;The Long March EP”; in 2005. Out of respect for their growing reputation as one of the best Seattle-based hip-hop acts, promoters began to book the Blue Scholars for bigger shows, including opening sets for De La Soul, Slick Rick and Hieroglyphics. In 2006 they scored the opening slot for Kanye West—a gig that Quibuyen remembers as a coming-of-age moment for the two.

“;That's when I took the leap of faith”; and quit a job at a Seattle museum to focus on music full time, he said. “;The timing felt right, with the reputation we'd built up in Seattle ... (and) the deciding factor was that we were going on our first, fully regional tour.”;

Over the last two years the Blue Scholars have watched their popularity grow throughout the United States, expanding their reach from the Pacific Northwest to California, Utah and states throughout the Midwest. In addition, a distribution deal with Rawkus Records that concluded in 2008 helped introduce the group to new fans, while a new deal with a Seattle-based coffeehouse ensures them of having enough financial support to continue recording albums and going out on tour.

As for the Hawaii-themed “;Oof!,”; Quibuyen said he'd be “;completely selfish to say this is my story without regard to anybody else who's out there now.”;

While the new music has helped him to better understand the influence of Hawaii upon his life, he also sees the project as a way to connect with the hip-hop scene here.

“;The scene out there ... reminds me of Seattle prior to this whole hip-hop explosion that's happened in the last five or six years,”; he said. “;There's a lot of folks who do it for the love.”;

And so the Blue Scholars plan to show love right back, with a string of shows on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island following performances at NextDoor in June 2008 and January 2009. Giving back just feels right to Quibuyen, who said he felt nothing but aloha from Hawaii residents after being gone for more than 12 years.

“;There are a lot of good things going on out there as far as the scene goes,”; he said. “;And these are the people who showed us love when we first came out there.”;