Song of the Day: Shabazz Palaces – 32 leaves dipped in blackness making clouds forming altered carbon

photo by lefong

photo by Ben LaFond

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Each and every Friday we offer songs by local artists. Today’s selection, featured on the Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “32 leaves dipped in blackness making clouds forming altered carbon” by Shabazz Palaces from their 2009 self-titled, self-released album.

Shabazz Palaces – 32 leaves dipped in blackness making clouds forming altered carbon (mp3)

Shabazz Palaces’ recent debut has electrified an already intense hip hop scene in Seattle. Their well-executed anti-publicity campaign has made their every move captivating. Comparisons are being drawn to the birth of grunge by veteran rockers who don’t usually pay attention to this genre. This city has seen scenes come and go-soul, jazz, surf/rock, and more recently grunge, emo, indie- and its residents are left either apathetic by the process or else salivating over the next big thing that will rocket our “City of Music” into the national spotlight again. Even as recently as a few years ago no one would have thought it could come from hip hop which was largely underground (with exceptions of course-Jake One and Sir Mix-A-Lot come to mind) or regional at best. But the appearance of Shabazz Palaces has a lot of people thinking differently. Not much is known about this group which includes Seattlite and Grammy award winning ex-Digable Planets emcee, Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler. They were still shrouded in mystery when they hit KEXP’s airwaves during Larry Mizell Jr.’s Street Sounds last October and not much more was known when they took the stage at Neumo’s this January-a show which garnered rare praise from The Stranger as it proclaimed: “The Best Show of 2010 has already happened.”

To say their music is base heavy is an understatement. Their dubstep influence and avant musical sensibilities have some local writers classifying them into a new genre of “bo-ho ganster.” Today’s song like many on their first two releases tickles the darker places in your soul and capture your attention immediately. Frequent references to places and figures in Seattle’s Central District in tracks like “Capital 5″ are reminiscent of Death Row artist allusions to Compton and sit along side more thoughtful songs like “A Mess….” that are more typical of Seattle hip hop.

Shabazz Palaces worked with local producer Erik Blood noted for his work with Seattle’s rockers including The Moondoggies, Tea Cozies and the Redwood Plan as well as his own shoegazey rock. At first it seems like an unlikely choice but after listening to the tracks with their tasty headphone treats, it started to make more sense. I recently caught up with the talented Mr. Blood to ask a few questions about working with this enigmatic group.

How did you get hooked up with Shabazz Palaces?

We got hooked up by a mutual friend (Bubba Jones). I begged Bubba to get Ish to sign my copy of Blowout Comb. Bubba played him The Turn-ons “East” which I was working on at the time and he liked it.

Why do you think they chose to work with someone with such a strong rock background?

They expressed interest in working with me after hearing “East” and I bugged Ish’s ass about working together since. He likes my sounds and I like his.

What was the most challenging thing for you as a producer in capturing their sound?

I don’t know that we really knew what was going to come out of these sessions, so there was no challenge. It all came together very organically.

Did you have any idea of how big their impact would be on our local music scene?

Hell yeah!

Any plans to work with them again?


Sweet, in the meantime many will be waiting with bated breath and left wondering what comes next. Best of luck!

Shabazz Palaces’ website doesn’t have much in the way of information (understatement) or upcoming shows but they are slated to play Sasquatch on May 29th.

Here’s the beautifully shot official video for “Belhaven Meridian”:

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  1. jW.
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    I’ve seen Erik Blood’s name mentioned in association with this album more than a few times now and while it’s necessary to acknowledge his contribution, I think it’s important to keep this in mind: Ishmael Butler and Ali Tendai wrote and produced the album. Erik Blood MIXED it. A key point that’s also overlooked with alarming frequency (on this an other Seattle music blogs) is that Shabazz Palaces was actually an extension of the work Ishmael Butler and Bubba Jones were doing on Butler’s Cherrywine project. In fact, it was Jones who hired Erik Blood to mix this album. True, it’s quite an amazing record — a testament to Butler’s and Tendai’s creativity and the depth of Jones’ technical skill — but please give credit where credit is due: Erik Blood definitely contributed his time and talent near the end of the project, but Bubba Jones was involved with Shabazz Palaces from the start.

  2. SCOTT
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

    downloadable shabazz palaces radio show session and digable rarities mixtape

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