Q&A: Blue Scholars' DJ Sabzi discusses his move to NYC, and why he's been known to avoid the term "hip-hop"

When DJ Sabzi packed a bag and hopped a plane to New York City in November 2009, for about two seconds it appeared that the producer behind two of Seattle's biggest hip-hop concerns—Common Market and Blue Scholars—had fled the scene he'd helped galvanize.

Not so fast: It's just an "extended visit," says Sabzi.

From his tenement in the Big Apple, the producer walked us through his trip east, his long-distance relationship with MC Geologic, and not using the term hip-hop. More of our conversation can be found on our music blog at seattleweekly.com/reverb.

SW: Are you calling from Brooklyn?

Actually from Manhattan. There's a rumor going around that I live in Brooklyn, and it's false. And I know that it would keep me really real if it were true, but it's not.

How do you like Manhattan?

Manhattan's cool. I came here to work. I didn't know it was going to take so long to get around the city. So I ended up finding a spot in Manhattan that was by basically all the trains. It's not a very cool place. It's the financial district where all of the banks are. I'm a couple of blocks from Ground Zero.

Why'd you decide to move out there?

A lot of it had to do logistically with the people that I'm collaborating [with] now, some creatively, some more on the business end of things, that it's just easier for one of us to be working here. And then on top of that, I haven't really lived anywhere besides Seattle my entire life, and I figured what the heck, I can still do it now, so why not? But Seattle's definitely my home, and I definitely don't plan on staying here. It's like an extended visit.

How's your long-distance relationship working out with Geo? Is this your first one?

Let's just say I'm just not into long-distance stuff! Creatively speaking with Geo, it's fine because when we were in college, I would be producing, and I would upload all the drafts that I made to an FTP. He would download them, he would rhyme to them, record 'em at his house, then upload those drafts to the same FTP. Then we would see each other at school the next day and talk about them. It's interesting because it's the same now.

How is the hip-hop being made in New York different from what's being made in Seattle?

That's an interesting question. It's a question that I almost don't even think about, because what we're focusing on now is "music." We don't even want to say "hip-hop" sometimes. Just like the record-label era is coming to an end, we strongly feel that this whole breaking music into genres and sort of separating one genre from another is also contradictory from how culture is evolving. We draw so much inspiration from so many different forms of music, and not just music.

ckornelis@seattleweekly.com

 
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