photo by Gregory A. Perez
interview by Rachel LeBlanc
Let’s continue the spotlights featuring artists whose medium is not only the music but also the community. Switching gears this week, I’m bringing a bit of hip-hop to the table by featuring Common Market‘s MC Ryan Abeo, popularly known as RA Scion. The duo’s work is awash with local media speculation, about their newest cuts which are on the verge of release and what it means for their future — will they break into the national level? But RA Scion has much more to say than just
Common Market has a strong community focus — you try to bring your message to kids. Who were some of your role models growing up?
RA Scion: I could think of a couple of teachers, one high school drama teacher in particular had a profound impact on my desire to learn–even outside of the curriculum. She presented the whole concept of learning in way that it was fun to be in her class. I think as a mentor in the community, to younger kids, be they students or whatever, it’s always the approach to take — to show them that there are actual fun ways to be productive. If there’s not that element, obviously they won’t be that interested, to any type of service or learning. Aside from that, maybe one of the reasons I’m so interested in being involved in youth is because I didn’t have a whole lot of mentors or adults who made an effort to reach out to show me.
You grew up in Kentucky, and lived all over the world before settling here in Seattle. How do you think it affects one’s outlook of the world; do you think it’s important or a necessity to travel to gain perspective, that it would help break mental boundaries?
RA Scion: Saying it is important doesn’t make it necessary. I was fortunate enough to have this opportunity to travel and see a lot of different things; it did shape my own perspective. But having that broad perspective doesn’t necessarily require even leaving your own community. It does maybe make it easier; I think that is the thing people take from traveling. It does happen, but it isn’t necessary to leave to think more broadly or to have more compassion for others.
You’ve played really small venues like the Chop Suey and the Vera Project, but you’ve also played really large settings like the Gorge and Bumbershoot. Which energy do you prefer?
RA Scion: Chop Suey, no question. It is my favorite venue that I’ve ever played. And we’ve played some really nice places, like el Rey in Los Angeles, the whole place is plush, everything is beautiful. But the Chop Suey is by far my favorite place. We’ve played Bumbershoot, well over 5,000 people. There is no place like Chop Suey. It’s the proximity of the crowd, you just feel like you are right there amongst the people. It’s also our hometown — I don’t think I would feel the same way if you took the exact same club and put it in a different city. It definitely wouldn’t.
Can you say anything about (forthcoming album) Tobacco Road?
Did you work with anyone?
RA Scion: We will have a few featured artists, but we kept it really simple. We recorded it at London Bridge Studios. Aaron Fisher and Tim DeLaney were the engineers.
What goals do you want to accomplish with this new album?
RA Scion: I want it to come out! It should have been out by now. Well, I’m learning the process of making an album and doing something more than putting it out. Because that’s essentially what I’ve done previously. If you’re content with just being the local dude getting local shows and making music for a hobby, that is fine. I think for awhile I was content for that, but Common Market did a lot better than we expected it to, we had the opportunity to tour, and it was really cool, I liked that. We wanted to do something more with the next album. We’re shopping into labels, trying to get distribution deals, making smarter business moves.
What is your deeper goal with the album, what message do you want to bring out this time?
RA Scion: I’ll have to quote Geologic on this one, because he said it best: “The lesson might change, but the essence of the message stays the same.” Fundamentally we’re still the same group; we still stand for the same principles. But the approach might be a bit different. We received some criticism because the previous album was “preachy”. You have to sort of take that in to account, to dismiss it completely is just negligence in the part of the artist. If people think I come across that way, then I should be aware of it, sort of change the approach. I don’t intend to be that way; when you’re competing in an industry of mass consumerism, misogyny, and blatant disregard for self-respect, of course you’re going to stand out as a little bit “preachy.”
Some people say they don’t want that sound representing the Seattle hip-hop scene. They say, “Oh Seattle is harder than that.” That’s fine, get on your grind and work as hard as we do. This album is more of a concept album that also sounds like a very cliché thing for an artist to say. The first Common Market album, we really just slapped the thing together and put it out. With this one we actually started with a concept, the entire album really harkens back to generations past in Kentucky, my ancestors working on the tobacco farms. That is where the title came from. There is a parallel drawn between the work ethics on the farm, and those necessary to performing and social work we do here at home. You can’t really sow the seeds and leave it be. You have to actively be there, working the fields. It is the same as here in the community, it’s not enough to just stand up and say, “Oh, we’re raising awareness.” What are you doing? What are you actually doing? You have to harvest.
Common Market performing “Push” at the Mass Line Label Launch Party