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Geo and Sabzi of Blue Scholars holding bottles of Odwalla juice.
Credit: Boston Progress Radio
There are stories out there about the ridiculous demands of various performers. Jennifer Lopez requires her dressing room to have white couches, white drapes, white candles, white lilies, and yellow roses (with red trim). The symbolism there is tempting, but I think I’ll pass on that commentary. I want to focus, instead, on Blue Scholars, my favorite APA progressive hip-hop duo. They came to Columbia last spring as part of the Hip-Hop from the Ground Up: Grassroots Activism Concert that also featured Kidz in the Hall and Heiroku. The show was amazing, but as part of the organizing group (headed by Heiroku) that brought them to Columbia, I was still preoccupied with a few last minute details, namely, the Blue Scholars "rider", the list of demands that need to be fulfilled by a host before a concert can take place.

Geo and Sabzi, according to their website, "are just as much rooted in community as they are in music." They are "second-generation sons of working-class immigrants" that seek to "keep the music grounded." Through their lyrics and their beats and their continual support of progressive causes, they indeed remain true to these ideals. But, they do enjoy to struggle in style.

When we received the Blue Scholars "rider", we laughed. There was no other visceral reaction except general amusement. Then we realized that their demands were serious. The list included 12 bottles of Odwalla juice, 12 bottles of San Pellegrino mineral water, a deli tray, a fruit and vegetable platter, many clean white towels, 12 water bottles, and as Heiroku remembers, reparations for Filipino colonization. Panicked, poor, and caught off-guard by this perceived "bourgieness", we scrambled to meet their demands. I admit that what they required pales in comparison to what other artists want (see J. Lo), but the specific desires they had seemed so opposed to their message of being working-class, immigrant folk. What kind of message do you espouse when you water your plants in San Pelligrino? And write manifestos while sipping on some Odwalla?

To this day, we still find it funny, and the list did not detract much from our general admiration for the group. Many of us still find Sabzi attractive, no matter how aloof and broody he makes himself out to be. We will still scream out Sagaba's name whenever Geo walks by (and he will stop to acknowledge us, and also, like the night of the Columbia performance, spend hours eating cheese fries and talking to us in a college dorm about various causes). And we will still identify with their music and message. Yet now that they have become, in relative terms, a bit more famous, getting noticed by the likes of MTV, I wonder what else they have added to their rider. Filipino veterans’ rights, perhaps?

I admit I felt like a big deal that night with this pass of arbitrary power.

Bourgie Blue Scholars Bananas? Banana Grabber?

They didn't finish their fruit and vegetable, so we knew what to do.

Geologic, cheese fries, and college students.
Note: They are indeed aware of the perceived contradictions, as noted in this interview of Geo and Sabzi backstage at ECAASU.


  1. Geo said...

    fyi - saba and i had no hand in putting the rider together. it's a standard one that the booking agency issues for all the artists it works for. and here i thought yall were just being generous! if i knew folks were getting butthurt about it, i would've said don't even bother (you'll recall i barely touched that shit backstage). still got love, though! thanks for bringin us out... we'll gladly do it again for a glass of water and a tangerine.


  2. Geo said...

    ps i would've loved to be able to afford attending Columbia University!  

  3. David said...

    Hahaha we don't afford it. We grovel before the Harlem-colonizing Columbia for some scraps and fool ourselves into thinking it'll be better after college.  

  4. Eugene said...

    Their rider is indeed a funny list. Much love to the Scholars. Much love to the Pacific Northwest and the Ave.

    One note: I do appreciate the link you put to our blog Boston Progress Radio. I would have liked to see appropriate credit attributed to the photo with the Odwalla bottles.  


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