Blue Scholars Bavani

Beware of most musicians peddling "the sky is falling” protest music —but not the Blue Scholars. Passionate and preachy, the Seattle-based duo of MC Geologic and DJ/producer Sabzi find success on their sophomore album. Thank Sabzi’s classical and jazz background for enhancing the aural backdrop; crisp horns pierce "Still Got Love” but Geologic’s lyrics struggle to leave a scratch. Harmony increases as the rising swells of "North By Northwest” lap up against the ear. Here, at least, Geologic breathes life into his subject matter — a shout-out to his Seattle roots. He rhymes: "Despite the sight of coffee shops on every block, nearby it’s supply and demand for the rock.” Sweep aside this news of the West coast crack problem and note that in both sound and vocals this work resembles California's Dilated Peoples. Sheer euphoria drives Sabzi’s production and it alone carries this disc during its weaker lyrical moments. Bavani is beholden to the boom-bap era but often is no better than anything from Seattle’s own Boom Bap Project. Again, it’s the lyrics that stifle; the beats dart off in jazzy directions with results sure to please. Of all the tracks, "Morning For America” shines the brightest; its subdued assault features stylistic flourishes that translate to some smoothed out jazz-hop. Not that Geologic’s lyrics are irrelevant but however well intentioned his plea ("Back Home”) to remove U.S. troops from Iraq, the recycled rhetoric can’t match with words the sombre chill of Sabzi’s piano chords. Scrutinise "50 Thousand Deep” and you will agree: his lyrical growth ended sometime right after the 1999 World Trade Organization riots in Seattle. (Rawkus)