REVIEW: Shabazz Palaces – ‘Black Up’

Shabazz Palaces

The year is 1993, Wu Tang Clan has made their debut with Enter the 36 Chambers, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul have both released their 3rd album; Midnight Marauders and Buhloone Mindstate. There was also Digable Planets, a group consisting of Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler, Mary Ann “Ladybug Mecca” Vieira, and Craig “Doodlebug” Irving. In that same year they unleashed upon the budding hip-hop community the Jazz infused LP Reachin: (A New Refutation of Time and Space). Without question the band’s most recognizable track both in its short existence and from the album is Rebirth of Slick “Cool Like Dat”. The band brought sounds lyricism with the perfect melding of jazz, soul, and rap that has yet to be replicated.

Fast forward to 2011, Digable Planets is no longer relevant in today’s “get in get rich and get out” rap scene, Hip-hop becoming a mistitled label with people forgetting its more than just a genre of music. This is also the year that Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler, now known as Palaceer Lazaro and his partner Tendai “Baba” Maraire release their debut album as Shabazz Palaces titled Black Up’. Though not very known by today’s standards this album represents what the rap genre could have sounded like, its almost a peek into the future. The bass heavy, jazz saturated and almost space age sounds contained in the LP are extraordinary. A suggestion for all; to really enjoy the album, buy some nice studio quality headphones and take in the delicious level of professionalism taken in the mixing and mastering of this orgasmic recording.

There are many topics presented here from love, passion of making music, raw wordplay and even Lazaro’s viewpoint on the hip-hop community as a whole currently. The lyrics, though containing unconventional vocabulary found in most underground music, is actual pretty simple and can grab the attention of someone who doesn’t readily recognize “Underground Sound” Even with that said, all these songs lack a traditional chorus, structure and even two tracks sound like Spoken Word more than rap which might be a throw off for some who are unfamiliar with the lack of basic structure and total creative control over your own track. One of my favourite things is the unorthodox track titles such as ‘An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum’, ‘A Treatease Dedicated to the Avian Airess from North East Nubis (1000 Questions, 1 Answer)’ , and ‘The King’s New Clothes Were Made by His Own Hands’.

Its full running time is 34 minutes, a little on the shorter side of LPs but still as rewarding as albums twice as long. I also offer the advice of NOT skipping around and to try to listen to it in one sitting if its your 1st time. The one track I feel that will stand out more than most is the 1st one, ‘Free Press and Curl’ which I can confirm blew one of my speakers with its sick bassline and progression. Without doubt, I can see this album being the platform for many more albums and even artists with its unique sounds, beautiful musical pieces, raw lyricism, and its pure avant-garde qualities.

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