Mass Marketing

Wide release and a new label have Common Market poised to conquer new lands.

If you live in Seattle, you've heard endless chatter about Common Market, aka DJ Sabzi and RA Scion. You're familiar with their progressive politics, community-building efforts, and roots in the Baha'i faith. You're also familiar with Scion's bespectacled, full-bearded visage.

Then why the hell write about Common Market again?

"We're up there with the big cats now!" explains Scion.

"The indie cats!" Sabzi clarifies.

They're referring to Common Market's current No. 6 spot on CMJ's hip-hop charts (they debuted at No. 2). And while Scion and Sabzi are quick to point out that it probably won't translate into the record going platinum, it's obvious that they're proud of their name being grouped with some of the most respected acts in the forward-thinking hip-hop genre (i.e., the Roots, Pigeon John, Soliloquists of Sound).

"We're one spot above the Roots right now," says Scion. "That's big."

Not bad for a record that's over a year old. The October nationwide rerelease of Common Market is the first widespread push of its kind for Mass Line Media, the label founded by Scion, Sabzi, Geologic of Blue Scholars, and Gabriel Teodros of Abyssinian Creole. The label, which will serve not only as a home for these artists' albums but also as a charitable clearinghouse for the causes the artists support, is now in the ring with national powerhouses Def Jam and Stones Throw. This means Seattle could now have a solid label to house like-minded artists similar to the aforementioned brands. And while Mass Line is not the first local hip-hop label to strive beyond the Northwest (remember Nastymix?), it is the first umbrella for the proactive mentality of Seattle's newest wave.

"What we're trying to do with Mass Line is establish name recognition," says Scion. "I know plenty of folks who will buy anything that's on Stones Throw. If it comes out on Stones Throw, they'll buy it without even hearing it. So, say what you will about that, but if we can take Mass Line to that level, where we have a reputation for putting out quality material and people will buy it on the spot, then we've done a great job of establishing name recognition. I know there are DJs out there that will look at that CMJ chart, see Common Market, see Mass Line, and say, 'What's this? I should check it out.'"

The Common Market LP is, not surprisingly, the best place to start. With the fast-moving locomotive fade-in, Sabzi's Pete Rock–esque horn sampling, and Scion's delivery of "Deep breath/I request a requiem for apathy/Momentarily lost hope/But now it's back to me," it's obvious they intend to do more than hustle. Elsewhere on "Connect For," Scion calls for the unification of local hip-hop, name-checking local luminaries and signaling the role the music can play in Seattle: "Connect for/The chance for us to prove to the critics/Hip-hop is not dividing this district."

After this Friday's show at Chop Suey, the entire Mass Line crew will embark on a West Coast tour. But if the response they've been generating of late is any indication, they might soon need to extend that tour into uncharted territory.

"Just the other day, I got an e-mail from a dude in Japan wanting to know about Mass Line," says Scion, laughing. "And his message was in the most broken English. But it was beautiful, y'know?"

 
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