Witness the most cosmic act in hip-hop, Shabazz Palaces, unleashing a hyperdrive tapestry live in the KEXP studio.
The whirlwind performance shuffles tracks from the best album of 2014, Lese Majesty, unfolding fresh aspects of their sound. There’s also a fine interview, discussing the recording process and what it feels to be making music that sounds like absolutely nothing else on earth.
These guys do not fuck around.
I dug this video from my drafts after listening to the groundbreaking album, Blowout Comb, from vocalist Ishmael Butler’s previous group, Digable Planets. In one of the most improbable second acts in music history, an early 90s underground rap hero emerged over a decade later with a new (at first mysteriously anonymous) project, breaking the few remaining rules of hip-hop like some young start up. With the group’s second album, they transcended all genre definitions, creating a sound as pure as it is unique.
Shabazz Palaces have officially joined weird, pioneering heroes like Sun Ra, Captain Beefheart, Aphex Twin, and John Coltrane in truly rarefied space.
Kendrick Lamar‘s new album, To Pimp A Butterfly, is out by surprise a full week ahead of time. It’s for sale digitally and streaming in full on Spotify. Click play below. Right now.
I’m sick. I woke up today too ill to even go to work. But then this happened. I’m feeling a bit elevated right now.
I don’t have anything too meaningful to say yet. Here’s a couple comments I made with friends during my first and only listen:
- I don’t care about what anyone else has to say on the first day of an album like this, that’s going to have a lot of discussion flying around. I like to hear it “pure” as can be, I suppose. So uh, after 2 tracks I’ll just say that I’m really enjoying this, and the dark swirl of production tics is reminding me of D’Angelo’s latest (Best of 2014 album by the way), in a really positive way. Old and new sounds mixing for something vintage but not dated sounding, maybe?
- Almost at the end. Loving the thick jazz sound. Not quite jazz-hop in that Digable Planets way, it does remind me of their masterpiece Blowout Comb in a very slight way… which is a good thing since that’s a top 10 album of the 90s for me.
There’s no need for a lot of discussion the moment something as important as this hits our collective ears. Just listen and absorb it. We’ll talk later.
Second listen observations: thinking that this evokes the warm but gritty production of D’Angelo’s Black Messiah, the sprawling, psychedelic structure of Shabazz Palaces‘ Les Majesty, and the free jazz embrace of Flying Lotus‘ You’re Dead. It’s no coincidence that all of these featured on my Best of 2014 list. I’m linking it again for emphasis – if you like this, there’s a lot of fun music streaming on that page. This album is hitting me with a deep and immediate connection.
With my Best of 2014 post coming up, it felt like great timing to notice Shabazz Palaces have dropped a fresh, wildly psychedelic animated video for the second track on Lese Majesty, one of last year’s best albums. Fellow Sub Pop artist Chad VanGaalen provides his unique style of surreal hand-drawn art, meshing with the song’s astral imagery in perfect fashion. Check it now.
Well look, we’ve got Magic Johnson riding a slice of pizza through hyperspace! There’s not much to say about this video; the bonkers imagery speaks for itself. It fits the impressionistic hip-hop sound playfully, perfectly.
As for the music itself: there’s a reason Lese Majesty is one of the best albums of 2014. With a liquid, organic flow kinking to every philosophical whim of the duo, an end-to-end listen is more like twisting through a wormhole than anything resembling a straightforward rap album. There are a few brief flashes of familiar song structure, but they’re outliers on an album more closely resembling something from Oneohtrix Point Never, Flying Lotus, or Miles Davis at his spaciest.
If you enjoyed the brilliantly kaleidoscopic debut, Black Up (check my thoughts), you’re in for a weird surprise. This is Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire absolutely elevating their game, mutating an alrady impeccable sound into something more expansive and indefinable. I feel confident saying, prepare thyself for to deal with a miracle.
Edit: apparently the wrong video was showing; it’s been fixed.
Shabazz Palaces‘ new album Lese Majesty has wormed its way to the very core of me. It’s glorious, it’s freewheeling psychedelia, it’s a complete deconstruction of hip-hop forms and one of the best albums this year. Since my purple “loser edition” showed up a couple weeks ago, I’ve played it more than any album in months; even more so on my headphones at work, through the Sub Pop stream and then Spotify, where it’s streaming for free in whole: Lese Majesty on Spotify.
If you haven’t jumped on this wavelength, please have some #CAKE.