Review: Blue Scholars’ OOF! EP


The Blue Scholars have been a respected hip-hop duo in Seattle for around four years, after receiving top honors in the hip-hop category of Seattle Weekly’s 2006 Music Awards Poll. The group is known for their socially and politically conscious lyrics and playfully melodic beats. Their 2007 release Bayani exemplified these compelling aspects and led to a spike in their local popularity.

Their most recent effort, an EP entitled OOF!, features six new tracks and six additional instrumental renditions of the first six tracks. The EP presents some very different sounds and musical directions than the Blue Scholars’ previous releases, from odd drum timing by DJ/producer Sabzi to MC Geologist’s increased inflection in his voice. As a natural byproduct of its experimental nature the responses to it have been mixed, with large concern as to the authenticity of the Blue Scholars. It is probably fair to say, however, that the direction of the band should not be hastily determined due to the release of a themed EP.

The instrumental and lyrical inspiration for OOF! is Geo’s former homeland and recent vacation place, Hawaii. The feature track, “HI-808,” is entirely about Geo’s experience as a Hawaiian native moving to mainland America, and his subsequent experiences on returning to Hawaii (808 being the Hawaiian area code). The album overall seems very introspective, with Geo commenting and appreciating his gypsy-esque background on the fifth song, “Hello.” The musical and lyrical concepts on the EP are slightly more challenging to capture than the Blue Scholar’s previous efforts and often warrant an in-depth look.

The first track, “Bananas,” contains Sabzi’s most interesting musical effort in the EP.  The track initially sounds a little jarring due to its sparse tribal drumbeat and minimalistic composition. However the lyrics provide some structural sense as they aptly follow the backbeat, while the sound reaches unity from a gentle synth drawing a cautious melody. The song doesn’t establish immediate listener gratification, rather appreciation comes with time and the odd drumbeat evolves into the most compelling element of the song.

One of the most difficult tracks to conceptually understand is the fourth track, “New People.” The first verse’s focus appears to be about appreciating pleasure through hard times, such as a lack of money. The second verse features a medley of contemporary political and social discomfited aspects.

Little jabs seem to emerge throughout both verses aimed at figureheads of the popular music industry. Two lines in particular, “got my mind on my money, but the money’s not enough,” and “a skill called learn how to tighten your belt” imply a tongue-in-cheek nature to the song. Something about the entire composition strikes me as a satire on popular superficiality, from the cheesy synth pop beat to the predictable hooks. Lines such as “poems in my scrotum” are so un-Geo like that one familiar with the Blue Scholars would almost be forced to conjure an ulterior motive, whether or not this is valid.

The Blue Scholars will be performing at the Capitol Hill Block Party, tickets can be purchased here.

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