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“Yuri Kochiyama” – Blue Scholars

Blue Scholars is an American hip hop duo based in Seattle, Washington, created in 2002 while the members, DJ Sabzi (Saba Mohajerjasbi) and MC Geologic (George Quibuyen), were students at University of Washington.  The hip hop group first came to be in 2002 as a result of, “two students skipped a class, went and crafted an album,” as it says in the track “Bayani”.   The two met at a meeting for S.H.O.W. (the Student HipHop Organization of Washington) which was organized by classmate and future manager Marc Matsui. 

The Blue Scholars have a very unique sound with extremely political lyrics which often touches on Geoliogics’ Philipino roots, but more often aims to stir up emotion for the unfortunate political circumstances in the world today.  Their beats are typically very instrumental, using a lot of brass and percussion instruments as a base.  However, in Cinematropolis, their latest album and the album that “Yuri Kochiyama,” comes from, has more electronic tendencies.

But the name of the song has to mean something, right?

Born Mary Nakahara, Yuri Kochiyama was raised in a San Pedro, California.

As a Japanese American, Yuris’ life changed on Dec. 7, 1941 when the Japanese Empire bombed Pearl Harbor.  Soon after the bombings, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested her father, whom they considered a “suspect” who could threaten national security.  While her father was in federal prison he was denied medical care and by the time he was released in January, he became too sick to speak.  Her father died the day after his release.

Kochiyama went on to become a major player in the American Civil Rights movement.  She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize through the “1,000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005” project.  Also of note, Kochiyama was present at Malcolm X’s assassination on February 21, 1965, and held him in his arms while he lay dying.

This song describes Geologics’ perception of Yuri Kochiyama and her ideals that he wishes to live by, including her teaching career which Geologic admires and is sympathetic with.  The lyrics are emotional and concise, and show the groups political ideals.

I think in some way, we should all want to be like Yuri Kochiyama when we grow up.

Lyrics here.

More about the Blue Scholars here.

Yuri Kochiyama - Cinemetropolis