Q&A: Blue Scholars' DJ Sabzi on NYC, Real Life, and "Music" vs. "Hip-Hop""/>
When DJ Sabzi packed a bag and hopped a plane to New York City in November of 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 temporary tenement in the Big Apple, the producer walked us through his trip east, his long-distance relationship with MC Geologic, and not using the word hip-hop.
I'm 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.What does Seattle have that they don't have out there?
How do you mean?
My observation has been that this particular borough, at least in Lower Manhattan has, how do I say it, it's become such a place for business that it's pushed out any regular people. When I'm in Seattle I'm surrounded by friends, family, and a community of regular people. Whereas everyone here is someone who's kind of like me. Who's coming here to work, regardless of what industry they're in.
Why'd you decide to move out there?
A lot of it had to do logistically with the people that I'm collaborating 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 long-distance relationship?
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's the new album coming?
It's coming along quite nice. It's like a combination of being totally new for Blue Scholars, but at the same time we're almost returning to the original Blue Scholars sound. You can think of it as classic blue scholars that has matured to 2010.
Are you going to be putting this album out with Duck Down and Cafe Vita?
Right now Vita is involved, but that's about as far as I can say is officially statable.
Do they give you an advance and there's profit sharing involved? What's your relationship like?
They help fund certain activities.
How's the hip-hop being made in New York different than 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.
So many young people are looking for identity, and they're trying to figure out who they are and how they're going to define themselves, and we're all just borrowing from everything.