It has been four years since the Blue Scholars have last released a full-length album. Over the past few years Seattle has seen its underground hip hop scene flourish with an array of skilled up-and-comers such as: Jake One, Macklemore, Grieves, Budo, Ryan Lewis, Grynch and others. Emcee Geologic and producer Sabzi are back to re-capture their throne as the 206’s top hip hop act with their latest, cinema-inspired album, Cinemetropilis. After releasing albums on respected indie labels such as Duck Down and Rawkus, the Scholars decided to bypass the label route, and have their fans fund their “visual soundtrack” which is going to feature a mini-film for each of the album’s 15 tracks.
Cinemetropolis features large, cinematic sounding production, as well as many film allusions in Geo’s verses. Even most of the songs on the record are named after famous actors, producers and directors. Geo explains the concept more in-depth on the album’s intro: “If it spins on a reel, it’s gotta be real /But ‘real’ in real life just remind us of film / And now you saying something’s like a movie when it’s real / like a film’s much realer than anything you feel.” Although the film concept is present in nearly each song, it still doesn’t seem to be shoved down the listener’s throat, and there are still a wide range of topics covered on the disk. On “Oskar Barnack ∞ Oscar Grant,” Sabzi flips the sound of a photographer assembling a camera into a dope percussion loop while Geo urges listeners to “shoot the cops,” not with a gun, but rather a camera to prevent police corruption. And Geo drops some legal knowledge about marijuana on the aptly titled, “Tommy Chong,” while the album’s only guest rapper Macklemore spits an excellent verse encouraging moderation.
Sabzi’s production is better than ever, with his un-matched synth loops and phenomenal drum sounds and patterns. His sound is big, cinematic and has a nice summer vibe especially the ode to the hottest season, “Marion Sunshine.” “Slick Watts” is an absolute banger with a chopped vocal sample and hard synths as Geo name drops various Seattle neighborhoods and former Seattle Sonic players, and the transition to “George Jackson” is seamless and chill-inducing. Geologic has also improved on the mic. While he has always been extremely strong lyrically and conceptually, my main knack with the Filipino rapper was his monotonous voice and lacking personality. On Cinemetropolis and various internet released leaks such as “Big Bank Hank,” Geo’s voice sounds better than older projects and is rapping with a lot more (for the lack of a better term) “swagger.”
Cinemetropolis is easily one of the year’s best releases, as you will be hard pressed to find a disc with production this good. Both Geo and Sabzi are on top of their game throughout. With Grieves & Budo recently dropping their Rhymesayers debut, Jake One constantly dropping heat with Freeway, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis prepping a much anticipated release, it’s clear that Seattle is soon to be one of the top underground hip hop scenes across the country. And it’s also clear that the Blue Scholars are leaders of that movement.