Admiration is nice. At the very least, it can get your foot in the door. I’ve admired Blue Scholars since I first heard them, last spring, when their SW Music Awards victory for top album incited me to go out and buy their self-issued, self-titled debut from Everyday Music on Capitol Hill. Blue Scholars was very much a first album, the sound of audible talent finding its feet. MC Geologic and DJ/producer Sabzi were levelheaded without sounding like bores, the beats were nice, and there was clearly room for growth. It was easy to see why they had people excited. I figured I might become one of those people eventually, maybe when they followed it up.
In a way, they have. Geologic and Sabzi played Chop Suey twice on Friday, June 16, for a pair of CD-rerelease shows: The debut has been reissued with new artwork, four extra tracks, and a good amount of fanfare, considering the crowd. The early, all-ages set was evidently well attended—according to a Chop Suey doorman, around 300 people showed up. But the nighttime show was crammed tight—line wrapped around the block, 30-minute wait time to get in, nearly impossible-to-navigate main room, the works. Agewise, the later crowd veered to the low side of the 21-plus divide; without evidence, I’d wager there were more than a couple folks who attended both.
I’d also wager they got their money’s worth both times. Opener Denizen Kane (best rapper name in town, easy) has a raspy flow that resembles Gift of Gab’s—it’s similarly easygoing, a style you can relax into, and it was hard not to feel for him when he informed us, with as much bravado as he could, that he’d quit his job the night before. After a breaking session by Massive Monkees, out-of-towner One Be Lo came on, energetic but a little unfocused— not unlike the audience, who seemed restless for the headliners.
After being introduced, “They were abroad, but they came back to give y’all some Northwest love” (and here I thought they’d come back because they live here), the guests of honor quelled any fidgetiness in the crowd. Sabzi and especially Geologic are completely assured onstage—the latter is one of the most natural showmen in town. (And here I’d been sticking to the record.) Usually the command “Wave your hands in the air” is a signal for tedium; Geologic waved his and everyone followed suit because (a) they wanted to and (b) it was fun. (Ditto on making some noise.) I was already convinced when Sabzi knocked me sideways by cutting up—why on earth did I not see this coming?—Modest Mouse’s “Float On,” while Geologic rhymed over it, cocksure as could be, reveling in his own skills and the city-pride of the pairing. It was then that I was converted—from admirer to fan, in under a half-hour.