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Marc Levin

Shabazz Palaces



by Al Shaw Ki  

Seattle based group Shabazz Palaces’ Ishmael Butler (aka Palaceer Lazaro) and Tendai “Baba” Maraire are leaving this planet. These guys have built a machine that not only transports you sonically, but physically, mentally and perhaps metaphysically to a place that is as subversively awe inspiring as the title and cover artwork of their new LP, Lese Majesty.

Shabazz Palaces

An underlying information agenda permeates throughout the trippy musical landscape of the album. Expanding on their signature sound, a muted low-fi, hi tech assortment of drums, bass and melodic grooves provide the space-hazy backdrop for this electric follow up to their jazz-tinged, straighter forward, yet critically acclaimed debut, Black Up.


Residing above the stratosphere, this unorthodox pair of mad scientists deliver what appears to be socially motivated, anti-extinction messages, via cryptic ensembles of multi-layered instrumentation that somehow resonate beyond hip hop. Electro-distortion traces of punk and grunge are present, notably in tracks such as “MindGlitch Keytar TM Theme,” while dark and scenic songs like “Forerunner Foray,” “Ishmael,” “Down 155th In The MCM Snorkel,” and the lead single “CAKE” exemplify a lyrical fortitude that doesn’t fit within a class of typical emcees. Confident, the whimsically deliberate Butler even elaborates on romance arts with “Noetic Noiromantics” emphasizing the unspoken strategy of “Touch and Agree” in repetition. Raw and unforgiving, this is universal storytelling appropriate for the now era, evident in tracks like “They Come In Gold” and “Motion Sickness”.


Using a sub-toned, minimalist approach to convey their unique style, it becomes apparent that the lyrical content is taking precedent over the futuristic allure and musical hypnosis. Beautiful, erratic and puzzling, it’s nearly impossible to resist the audible transcendence that allows you to travel to another realm of consciousness.

The duo is smart, like a couple of covert, rogue astronauts that evolved from descendents of revolutionaries. Operating outside of the paradigm and brilliantly expressive, Shabazz Palaces have built a machine. They’ve invited us all to come, and yes, they are equipped for the long trip.

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