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Love is Growth / Butter&Gun$ EP

From New York City to the Pacific Northwest, Asian American music stretches from the cozy Sunday night spaces of NYC's SULU Series to crowds of thousands at Seattle's annual Bumbershoot music festival. Two new releases-- Taiyo Na's Love is Growth and Blue Scholars' digital EP Butter&Gun$--speak to the newly recognized and on-the-rise talent that should definitely occupy our earspace. I've had the opportunity to meet (on multiple occasions) both Taiyo and the Scholars, and their musical work speaks to the insight and intelligence they possess as socially conscious artists.

Love is Growth

Taiyo Na (birth name: Taiyo Ebato), 25, is the curator of the aforementioned SULU Series (a monthly showcase of Asian American talent at the Bowery Poetry Club), combines hip-hop and folk/acoustic/soul in his debut release. His voice reminds me of Korean Am rapper/poet Denizen Kane's--raspy, somewhere between rap and song, weaving through poetry and music. Through his lyrics he articulates life on the grind, the push forward, the growth in love:

Pain is my dealer who break me with the language
Bless me with the insight to illuminate my canvass
My hurt got a honey, so you can comprehend this
Rock it like a rosary and walk with the anguish...

Taiyo Na - Love is Growth

Heavy on acoustic guitar and strings, the album features the creative input of an arsenal of East Coast Asian American artists--among them, Koba, Vudoo Soul, Craig Chin, Kevin So, and, my personal fave, Emily Chang (formerly of I Was Born With Two Tongues) lending her addictive voice on "Moonlight City (Reprise)." Other highlights include "Kasama," an ode to a sister in the struggle; "Lil' Tookie," in remembrance of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, the Crip-turned-peace activist sentenced to death by the state of California; and "Immigrant Mother (Lovely to Me)," Taiyo's ode to his, believe it or not, immigrant mother.

However, I definitely enjoyed the first two-thirds of the album the most; the last few songs, where Taiyo dips more into the acoustic-folk part of his repertoire, begin to blend together and lose the distinctiveness of the rest of the LP. Other than that, though,
Love is Growth is a solid debut from an artist with much in store for the future.


Blue Scholars, the Seattle, WA hip-hop duo of emcee Geologic (George Quibuyen) and deejay/producer Sabzi (Saba Mohajerjasbi), has recently gained national prominence through their distribution partnership with legendary label Rawkus Records and their 2007 sophomore album, Bayani. Since then, they've released two digital-only EPs, the first revolving around "Joe Metro," Bayani's closing track and Geo's ethnographic narration of riding the Seattle buses. (See my post on the somewhat surprising ballad, "Southbound.") Butter&Gun$--referring to an economic model that weighs a government's spending on military versus social service--operates more as a single for "Loyalty," a sonic ode to the group's followers and, in my opinion, the best track hands down off of Bayani.

Aside from the original version of the song, the EP features a reconceptualization of the theme, chopping-and-screwing segments of the original (I'm kinda ambivalent about that) amidst Geo's unusually rapid-fire delivery:

They put us in competition to cause affliction with opposition
The friction is part of their fiction, they’re looking for pots to piss in
Watch the bosses up in the loft laughing, upping the cost of living
To cop a billion while the cops are killing ‘em off, women and children
Politicians who mock religion and talk tradition to all, just wishing
That all the listeners fall victim, the pistols are drawn, the sinister laws
Is killing the cause, the citizens march, the sinners will start repentance
The minister calls deliverance, guerillas defending their villages...

Blue Scholars - Butter&Gun$ (Loyalty Pt. II)

The other original song, "27," recalls Geo's childhood as a military brat, developing a penchant for hip-hop in Honolulu. As always, Sabzi laces the beats with an eclectic mix of jazz, soul, and funk as Geo paints personal experience and popular struggle in the same breath. Butter&Gun$ is best described as a continuation of Bayani-- a fitting showcase of their talent, yet built upon the same formula that most of their recent songs follow. Nevertheless, Blue Scholars has been getting lots of attention in recent years and I'm excited to see where they'll take their music.


  1. David said...

    nice on the mp3 players in the post. gotta remember how to do that...  

  2. David said...

    i think i heard the name of fmr lt. ehren watada in those lyrics...

    anyone else hear an anthem-like tune in the back?  


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