Seattle duo Blue Scholars has signed a deal with Duck Down. In recent years they’ve issued material on Rawkus and Hyena Records; hopefully Duck Down will provide a lasting home for them. (No word on where their Massline brethren, Gabriel Teodros and Common Market, will head next.) An EP, Oof!, is scheduled for August 25, followed by a new album in 2010.
To fund their upcoming projects, Blue Scholars have partnered with Caffe Vita, a small coffee roasting company that operates several stores in the Northwest area. “Coffee is both International and local, it effects the lives of millions, and it has tremendous ability to generate culture. We believe strongly in the work of the Blue Scholars and their power to look beyond the basic commodity that music has become. We are honored that Sabzi and Geo see that Vita is striving for the same goals,” says Caffe Vita founder Mike McConnell in a press release.
By working with two indie companies in Duck Down and Caffe Vita, Blue Scholars are continuing their commitment to socially responsible and politically aware art. Their music has yet to accomplish those ambitions, but they came incredibly close with the remarkable (if somewhat uneven) Bayani. Duck Down will reissue Bayani on September 1.
“I believe Blue Scholars is positioned to be one of the next important groups, not just in hip hop, but in music worldwide, and I want Duck Down to be a part of that,” says Duck Down CEO Dru Ha in the aforementioned release. “They bring their progressive ideas not just to their music and lyrics, but also in the way they think about and do their business.” At the very least, they could develop into a Brother Ali-type artist who communicates a true-school hip hop ethos to a wide audience.
The same could be said for Duck Down. Though the label has grown into one of the most important in independent hip hop, it has yet to release a universally acknowledged classic that truly motivates fans. But with a catalog of exciting albums (including Torae & Marco Polo’s recent Double Barrel), strong business moves and a diverse, talented roster that ranges from figurehead Buckshot to new-schoolers Kidz in the Hall, Duck Down is on the verge of becoming the next great indie rap influencer, and the first label to occupy that category since Stones Throw’s breakout year in 2006 (J Dilla’s Donuts, Georgia Anne Muldrow’s Olesi).
Here’s more excerpts from the press release:
On August 25, 2009 Blue Scholars will release “OOF!” their newest collaborative multi-media project and the first release to be distributed through their new venture. On September 1st, they will re-issue their 2007 album “Bayani”, which has already sold over 20,000 units. “Bayani Redux” will include one brand new track and two songs that were previously available only via digital retail outlets. There will also be a brand new full-length Blue Scholars album and other projects coming soon.
The sales and distribution model developed by the group for their upcoming releases will allow them to maintain complete ownership of their music and total control over how it is marketed, sold, and even given away.
Instead of signing a standard artist/record label deal, Blue Scholars hired the label Duck Down to run point on marketing for all of their upcoming releases. As a major player in the current and ever-changing record label industry, Duck Down Records saw this deal as an opportunity to get creative and experiment with strategies for record labels to continue evolving as viable businesses. …
Duck Down’s current distribution partner, E1 Entertainment, the largest independent distributor in the United States, will handle distribution of Blue Scholars’ physical product. Digital sales and distribution will go through Tunecore. Direct-to-fan marketing and sales will be developed by the members of Blue Scholars themselves, using Topspin web marketing tools.
Says Geo, of Blue Scholars, “After weighing all the options, remaining independent is without question, the best look. Duck Down shares that vision and their track record speaks for itself. With them, we get that national and international push while still owning and controlling our music.”
To finance all the upcoming projects, Blue Scholars have formed a strategic brand relationship with Seattle independent coffee company, Caffe Vita. The coffee company will also play a role in the sales and distribution plan by selling upcoming albums in all of their retail outlets and marketing the releases via their online presence.
Blue Scholars DJ/ Producer Sabzi says in regard to their partnership with Caffe Vita – “their innovative marketing, their justice and equity in business practices, and their premiere quality of product and presentation, make Caffe Vita an ideal brand to partner with. I intend to do with our music what Vita does with their coffee.” …
Blue Scholars have sold over 60,000 albums and played over 400 live shows. They have developed a dedicated following in the Northwest (selling over 4,000 tickets for each of their last few Seattle performances) and have shared the stage with an impressive list of nationally acclaimed artists such as Kanye West, Q-Tip, De La Soul, Immortal Technique, Hieroglyphics, GZA of Wu-Tang Clan, Matisyahu, Zion-I, Flobots and the Coup.
Here’s a link to a download from Blue Scholars’ upcoming Oof! EP:
And here’s a cheeky video celebrating the Blue Scholars-Duck Down alliance:
Photo by Tone Fire.