Who the heck is Shabazz Palaces and why am I hearing so many things about them? For those not too familiar with the hip-hop side of things, Shabazz Palaces is a project of Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler of the successful 90’s hip-hop group Digable Planets. (Did I use hip-hop too much in that sentence?)
If you take a visit along their website, not much information is revealed aside from a few tour dates and some contact information. And this is done on purpose. For the first two years of Shabazz Palaces, Butler declined interviews with any media that asked and performed under a headscarf, a pair of sunglasses, and the moniker Palaceer Lazaro.
Though Butler revealed his place behind Shabazz Palaces, the anonymity remained. Only a few interviews have been done with Butler, yet he never discloses who is involved in the group. The obscure descriptions of Shabazz Palaces all circles around their value of “earning a fan, a listener, an ear, a mood, a heart, rather than being placed in front of somebody with some sort of pre-determined outlook.”
Black Up, their 2011 debut under Sub Pop, has received critical acclaim. The music does not fall into any constructed pattern, Shabazz’s beats and rhymes fall into its own place, having its own algorithm. Performing at Pitchfork Festival 2011 over the weekend, Shabazz Palaces’ performance was “all brains and musicality funneled through the easy application of hip-hop,” filling their atmosphere with “African rhythms, mesmeric beats and cerebral non-rhymes.”
A lot of thought goes into making this music, and that’s the way it should be. Butler and his back-up simply aren’t here for the fame, they don’t mind working under the radar. They’d prefer to read a writer’s take on Shabazz rather than put their definition out there. This ambiguity is addictive, it keeps people wondering, and the music is equally mesmerizing.
Shabazz Palaces is featured at the inaugural Gorilla vs. Bear Fest this Saturday, July 23rd. Come see what all the talk is about. Meanwhile, check out what old people think about Shabazz Palaces. I kind of love them a little bit.