DJ Sabzi is the anti-Puff Daddy— or P. Diddy if you will— caring more about pertinent issues than commodities. He’s not the mainstream in this country; he’s part of what the mainstream would be in a much more functional world.
The DJ/producer for Seattle hip hop groups Common Market and Blue Scholars is launching a new label that emphasizes grassroots dialog. He has teamed with emcees RA Scion (Common Market), Geologic (Blue Scholars) and newest act Gabriel Teodros (Abyssinian Creole) to start Massline Media over the past summer.
The label is made up of Common Market (Sabzi and RA Scion), Blue Scholars (Sabzi and Geologic) and Gabriel Teodros. All artists are based in Seattle.
“It’s just a next step or an enhancement of what we as individuals in this community are trying to achieve,” said Sabzi about the purpose of his new label. “Which is kind of like, it’s up to you to really look at it and figure out what it’s about and see how effective it is. A lot of what we’re gonna do is very issue based, it’s very concrete. Like, right now it has to do with a loose form of education through music. A loose form of community building with young minds, through one of the most effective tools, which is you know music.”
Playing shows and recording records isn’t the extent of Sabzi’s work with the young community.
“Supplementing our role in the community as artists with high school visits, college visits, workshops that deal with the culture art and politics, things of that nature,” he said. “As resources develop we would like to see ourselves, I don’t know, we’ve been talking about starting a charter school sometime in maybe five years, it’s a very loose dream.”
It’s along these same lines that he equates what his role as an artist means to the way the public sees him and what he is accountable for.
“I think any artist is responsible to their community.” Sabzi said. “Like this whole thing about ‘I’m an artist or I’m an athlete or I’m this or I am that, I’m not a role model,’ is garbage. By choosing that path you’re sort of implying consent to be looked at and have people listen to you, so you’re accountable for what you say.”
The new label will not necessarily be limited to just recording music but will leave other doors open like video.
“Anything we can do to insight young minds to think critically of their environment is basically something we’re going to be developing,” he said.
The goal of the label is for Sabzi and his partners to communicate with people in the way in which they do best and to get people to think critically.
“It’s through this music that we hope to advance that grassroots dialog and that form of grassroots education on a local level,” he said. “It’s just like, this is our particular skill that we’re most efficient at. Other people are direct teachers or other people are doctors. This is how we try to connect with folks.”
With this Sabzi highlights one of the main truths the young label holds, “there’s no such thing as art for art’s sake.” Instead all art has a concrete purpose to fulfill.
Besides his views on the way in which artists should operate in the entertainment world Sabzi proves to be a proficient and well-rounded DJ when making his beats, approaching each project armed with every instrument imaginable.
“I feel like I have a very large palette to work with,” he said. “Where as if I were a cellist all I could do is play the cello. And the human race is evolving and technology is evolving and hip hop sort of marks a very fundamental change in the way music is.”
“Whenever I listen to beats it’s like a puzzle to me and I have to deconstruct it,” said Sabzi.
Adding to this sense of freedom and construction is the way in which Sabzi works with both RA Scion and Geologic. He basically puts together instrumentals with sounds they want in mind and lets the two emcees figure out what they like.
For RA Scion he tries to stick to more of an early 90s sound, whereas Blue Scholars is open to a wide range of beat styles.
“Blue Scholars actually is a very continually evolving thing. Like the next record is going to sound very different in form from the last one but at the same time it will still be recognized as ‘yea this is Blue Scholars’,” Sabzi said.
When the Massline Media label performs at Western it will be the second time that all three acts have shared the same bill. Due to close collaboration on material, many times during the show other emcees will come on stage even though it’s not during their block.
To really appreciate where this group of artists is headed it takes someone that is thoroughly detached from these roles we have been taught to accept,” Sabzi said. “It’s like ‘wait a minute it’s another group but it’s the same guy, I don’t understand, I can’t handle this.”