Fade in—the sounds of a moving train rumble through the headphones. Suddenly, you're treated to a swell of triumphant horns that would do Pete Rock proud. "It's time to let it go," a voice intones; the beat drops, and the MC starts: "Ayo, deep breath/I request a requiem for apathy/momentarily lost hope/but now it's back to me."
So begins the self-titled LP from Common Market, the landmark collaboration between RA Scion (AKA Ryan Abeo) and the Blue Scholars' gifted beatminister Sabzi (Saba Mohajerjasbi). RA's lyrics touch on everything from religious dogma to marriage to our scene's lack of cohesion; the latter song, "Connect For," namechecks a gang of local luminaries in an impassioned plea for solidarity. In what has already been a damn good year for local hiphop, here is something truly special—not only an extremely dope album, featuring the perceptive perspectives of RA and Sabzi's fresh-and-getting-better-all-the-time production—but a rare collaboration between disparate creative entities in our all too go-for-self hiphop scene.
You could say the duo connected through a higher power. "We're both Baha'i; that's how I heard of Sabzi in the first place," explains Scion. "So being involved with the Baha'i community and doing music, people kept asking me, 'Do you know Saba?'"
"Yeah, people would just be like, there's another Baha'i in town that 'does hiphop,'" Sabzi laughs. Once connected, Sabzi spun records at the release party for RA's debut EP Apostrophe—and the pair found that musically, they were on the same page.
Hearing RA Scion spit, you're definitely listening to someone weaned on such '90s rap cornerstones as X-Clan, Brand Nubian, and Jeru the Damaja—rappers concerned with things like society, religion, and the notion of hiphop as more than a commodity, something to do besides hustle. Sabzi's beats hark to the same period, particularly the classic sound of the aforementioned Soul Brother #1. "Basically, we have a nostalgic thing for the same era. You can hear that RA hasn't gone beyond, say, 1995 in his lyrical content," explains Sabzi. He and RA discussed further collaboration after the former contributed two tracks to RA's LP Live and Learn, "Syria's Concern" and "The Water." Through this dialogue came the idea of making an EP, which eventually turned into Common Market. Sabzi's production showcases the heady warmth that he's become known for, with a leaner, harder sound. "These particular beats are not the same flavor you're gonna hear on Blue Scholars material—I tend to have more of a shuffling drum pattern with [Blue Scholars MC] Geo," says Sabzi. "The Common Market stuff is more boom-bappish, as that suits RA's style of emceeing better."
With the project relying so heavy on the boom-bap, it's only fitting that it's being endorsed by no less than the Blastmaster, KRS-One (Kris Parker).
"I've been checking for the Temple of Hip Hop [the KRS-One–founded political movement/education resource] for a minute; I have followed KRS's movements closely over the years," explains RA. "First there was the Stop the Violence Movement, then the H.E.A.L. Movement, and finally the Temple of Hip Hop. KRS came through town in March, and that's when the Temple of Hip Hop really became known in town. It was really significant that it was March 9th [the anniversary of Biggie's death] that the Teacha came through and blessed Seattle.
"I was blessed enough to be on the stage when [KRS] performed 'Criminal Minded' and 'My Philosophy,' which hands down are two of the most influential songs of my life," he continues. "That experience was extremely inspiring to me." RA and Sabzi continued to build with the Temple for months after the show, resulting in KRS agreeing to return to Seattle to rock the Common Market album release and headline a Northwest tour with them (as he did with Boom Bap Project after his last visit to Seattle). "The fact that KRS is endorsing this [new] project—that's crazy to me," says Sabzi. "I didn't see that coming." The CD will also sport a written endorsement from Kris Parker himself—quite a coup for a li'l ol' group from Seattle.
So it would seem the train motif that opens and closes the album is a fitting one—the local motion present on this disc just keeps building up steam; the tracks to success have been firstname.lastname@example.org