Common Market, No Pill too Hard to Swallow


Five years ago two budding artists joined forces to create Common Market, a Seattle-based socially conscious hip-hop band. The following years would see the band gaining acclaim from the media and Northwest music scene. Their steadily growing popularity and concerted efforts resulted in them winning best hip-hop/rap album at the 8th Annual Independent Music Awards for their 2008 release Tobacco Road.

RA Scion, whom had previously spent time travelling throughout the world and performing as a solo MC; and Sabzi the DJ/producer of renowned hip-hop duo Blue Scholars, represent the two halves of Common Market. The distinctions between wanderlust Scion and hometown Sabzi appear mostly as biographical anecdotes than conflicting elements within the band. The beats and lyricism are expansive and imaginative, while still possessing a comfortable and familiar skin.

Similar to his work in Blue Scholars, Sabzi provides a strong melodic touch to the duo that often draws from bluesy, bar-chord piano and orchestral influences. The percussive quality, however, is far deeper and more pronounced. The effect arguably compliments RA Scion’s vocals, which are slightly more assertive than Blue Scholars lyricist Geo.

The ponderous themes expressed in RA Scion’s lyrics range from the battles of personal conflicts to the dynamics of social constructs. At times an amalgam of the personal and social is commented on, such as the song ‘Push’; which speaks to the difficulties of shirking social norms and the personal importance of doing so.

While the beats typically mirror the lyrics in their serious and crafted nature, experimentation of contrary tonalities is sometimes acutely explored. The playful sounding song ‘Brasso’ alternates a coy brass line with multi-layered pleas to enjoy life. There is a tongue-in-cheek nature to the allusions in RA Scion’s lyrics through constant subtle jabs at various molds that people take; altering the implications of the playful beat into something satirical and ultimately complimenting the involved culmination of ‘Brasso.’

Some of Common Market’s most captivating moments are when the conformities of hip-hop and rap are entirely ignored. The reason I say that they are ignored is that there doesn’t appear to be an overly constructed attempt at sounding different, rather the song that’s made is self-sustaining and justifiable by its own virtue. ‘Nouveau Depart’ is one such example of a song that has a unique form and texture, yet works by its own means, from the fanfare of brass to the challenging lyrical content. RA Scion’s quite personal reflections, and conflictions, of his spiritual past and present are laid to bare; “Imma see the real get exposed/ In the wind a wish blows/ What kind of men are content to live with those?”

Common Market have not toured since 2009 and it has been announced that RA Scion and Sabzi are not currently working towards a project. However it was also mentioned that the band is more in limbo than dissolved. RA Scion is now known as Victor Shade (his solo project persona) and Sabzi continues to perform with Geo of Blue Scholars.