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We Got The Beat: Shabazz Palaces

Shabazz Palaces

Shabazz Palaces

Meet Shabazz Palaces, the newest incarnation of an artist you may have known previously as one-third of the jazz-rap trio Digable Planets.  Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler, aka Palaceer Lazaro, began releasing material under the Shabazz Palaces name about two years ago in a frustratingly-anonymous, where-is-this-coming-from-and-who-is-their-booking-agent kind of way, garnering the attention of audiophiles and underground hip-hop aficionados.  Most write-ups you’ll find on the group and their releases (“group” is a tricky one here; the number or identities of artists involved in the production process is still a well-kept secret) bring up the barren dot com homepage, the small amount of interviews given, the lack of an official Myspace page.  That last one has made me wince every time I come across it: when-oh-when will we have an online platform for music artists that rivals what Myspace made famous five trillion abandoned profiles ago? (Love you, ’05 Myspace. xoxo)

The first thing I ever saw of Shabazz, however, was this:

Shabazz Palaces – Belhaven Meridian, directed by Kahlil Joseph

It blew me away.  So simple, yet so engaging.  It’s hardly the same description I would give the music itself.  The abstract, swelling and rich sound of their albums lends itself to multiple listens to savor the complexity (my favorite).  The new album is Black Up, the first hip-hop release from Sub Pop Records.

Shabazz Record

Shabazz Record

Butler himself is mostly uncomfortable in interviews, of which he has given few.  He has made it clear he would like the music to be the star of the show, hand-picking performance venues based on familiarity and how much control he will be able to have over the sound.  He wants to make sure it will sound good.  It’s understandable; this is music that should be heard clearly.
As Mr. Lazaro himself would probably prefer, I’ll just step aside and let the music do the talking.  Hear Black Up, streaming here:

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