There’s a good reason that Seattle group Shabazz Palaces is receiving national critical acclaim (including an 8.8 from Pitchfork!): there is just nothing like them. The semi-mysterious hip hop project was first credited to Palaceer Lazaro, who, over time, was revealed to actually be Ishmael Butler, once known as “Butterfly” of Digable Planets. And just as they sounded like no other rap group at the time, so does Shabazz Palace open hip hop up to new, previously unexplored heights. Black Up, their debut (on Sub Pop), is a dense production that digs deep into jazz, African rhythms, avant structures, and fractured beats amid more recognizable contemporary sounds. Butler’s often abstract lyrics seem both knowing and unknowable, while the whole mix together sounds simultaneously futuristic and anachronistic. In other words, it’s a total mindf*ck!
No doubt Butler and his accomplice, Tendai Maraire, would rather you just listen to the music make of it what you will than sit around trying to describe it or listen to the critics. Recently, they stopped by KEXP to perform their new songs and transformed our studio into another world. Check out the videos here: