I recently had the honor of shooting two of Seattle Hip Hop’s finest, Blue Scholars and Common Market. I flew out to Seattle for 2 days and the 5hr Continental trip was well worth it (Thanks Sabzi and Fuzed), although I wish I had more time to fully absorb the Seattle landscape before starting the shoot.

Despite this, I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do with this project. Above everything else, it had to look and feel like it was natural. Once you have listened to a Blue Scholars track, it becomes apparent who they are. Like so many musicians I respect and appreciate, their music is a window into their souls and my goal was to make that look good. I refer to these guys as the “rebirth of conscious hip hop” altho Sabzi doens’t agree. I understand. The word conscious is a bit played out, so maybe “substance” would be a better word? Regardless, Blue Scholars shamelessly rocks meaningful lyrics and freely throw around ideas like humilty, morality, resistance and so on. I know what they are talking about. These are things I believe in as well and in this overly materialistic society, it’s hard to find a balance. I struggle with it frequently. Always checking myself to make sure I don’t lose touch with what’s important like family, good friends and the basics like food and shelter. But, Blue Scholars aren’t about removing yourself from the system, they are about living within it in a more civil and righteous manner. What I found really refreshing was their whole crew was on the same page. They all know things about the richness of Seattles past and it seems this is a a big part of what motivates them. They use the terms, Black Panther Party, Jimmy Hendricks, racism, and gentrification often. Not in a negative way, but just like those who have passed before them, they want things to be different too. So, all of this needed to reflect in the images. I must admit, I was a bit nervous about how I was gonna say it well. So, we set out driving around looking for interesting areas that would provide the geometric patterns, textures and light I like to shoot against. I’ve done this successfully time and time again throughout the tri-state area of New York City, but Seattle would prove to be a bit different. The city is cold and modern, which is completely opposite of the music both Common Market and Blue Scholars create. Theirs is conscious, humble, warm, a bit pissed, but still hopeful and positive. They are not completely against the system but you can tell they don’t agree with alot of it. So, we stayed along the outskirts of the downtown city area, using the less urbanized and gentrified sections such as South Park and my instant favorite, Georgetown to name a few. All these areas had a sense of the common man everywhere. Struggle was in the air and the mostly overcast skies felt appropriate considering. I wasn’t complaining, many photogs appreciate the diffused light of an overcast sky, and I am no different.


Geo and I talked about the “conscious” rap thing and I asked him if he felt this was misleading. He replied “sometimes”. See, Geo is also a battle MCEE. In fact, that’s how he started, but he admits that working with Sabzi (Producer/DJ for both Common Market and Blue Scholars) has brought out another side of him. Sabzi’s music is heavily melodic with big boom bap drums and by Hip Hop standards, very complex arrangements. He has beat the likes of Marco Polo in beat battles and after listening to the newest unreleased Common Market CD I fully understand why. No wonder he inspires the cats he works with to soar, he is on a whole nother’ level himself.


Sadly, I didn’t get to spend much time with RA Scion of Common Market but from just one listen to his self titled album, I got the message. This cat is on some social shit too and it’s dope. You can hear it in his flow and the beats he chooses where his influences come from. RA was easy to shoot and if I had more time, we would have has tons of fresh images to look thru. Again, next time.


I can’t believe how much I have written. So, let the rest of the images on my web page, PHOTO BY TONE.COM, say the rest (Issue 160).



Photographer. The NEW POP, join the fam.

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  1. Tone – Amazing reflection on Blue Scholars, Common Market and Seattle. Music and photos from the soul.

    New York to Seattle to world wide.

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