Sunday, December 19, 2010

On the Method of Obtaining the Foremost Shabazz Palaces Work entitled "Barksdale Corners" and a Preliminary Attempt at Its Exegesis: Part I of II.



Listen to Barksdale Corners here.

I'm a bit late posting this story: an exclusive new Shabazz Palaces track called "Barksdale Corners" on palaceer pusher beat circa Now has been released as one side of 7-inch that came free with issue 4 of I Want You magazine (see 7-inch artwork above, by davidope). I Want You is a quarterly art magazine. Each issue is full color, large format (9.5″ x 13.25″) and limited to 1,000 copies. Current issues are always FREE. Being free means you still pay postage of $5 but it's well worth it for this mindbending track and some art too some of which is fine. Needless to say the fact it's by SP, is limited to 100 copies, and is made from tastful mauve-coloured vinyl means future generations will be losing their inheritances when the odd copy surfaces on ebay. As for the song, it is just too much. How can I describe that which has never been heard or dreamed of? You can hear it for yourself. What I can say is that it most convincingly throws you into its own universe, which I've tried to explore below in my discussion of the lyrics. The b-side is by someone called Stellar Om Source (who also makes beautiful art) and is fittingly transcendental too. "Barksdale" refers to Avon Barksdale, a drug dealer character from the TV show The Wire (pictured below), and the song is just something else. An attempt at lyrical transcription has been made below, but I ask for your help dear readers, since as ever Lazaro's words don't reveal themselves without some effort on behalf of more than one listener.


Barksdale Corners - Lyrics

[First Verse]
Let's make it a place to go.
With a hundred new styles we'll shine.
Drop shadowy zebra print. [?]
The white horse with the wings to fly.
Make it a time to move.
Twist the knives for the place to go.
The black light will illuminate the sound,
and pushers on blocks will run.

[Chorus]
System. I'm up in your system. System. (x2)
System. I’m up in the system. System. (x4)

[Second Verse]
Lights slice across the set
Gold dice tumble towards the riches off my bets
Crashing institutions, shooting eastward in a jet
A revolution down to the glitches in our sets
Threats try to pose
The flash froze em cold
Gold never fold
Royal colours gettin rogue [rolled?]
Flights book, rice cooks, ice looks dazzling
Seats on the lay back, time on javelins

I rock the brunos in a varied tone
Wavy like a herring bone
My shades boast the ice glaze
My Tacomas is cherry chrome
I stays the ???
???-delic
The styles in a plasma charisma
That's what's selling.
We snuck the choppers hundred-fifty clicks on camels
Holy Land mercenaries' blood oaths we bound to.
The fixer's villa, it overlooks the channel,
He promised he could touch the judge before he dropped his gavel.
Gun point straight while Sway test the powder
1.8, beast'd estimate the value.
Red rooms, black lights, cross indigo carpets
We ghettoize the market,
fraternize in utter sharpness
We watch you white lights making sparkles in the furnace
It's midnight down here though so you get swallowed up in darkness

Automatic push-button remote control,
Synthetic genetics commands your soul.


Thoughts

The first verse starts with a call to “make it a place to go.” What does “it” refer to? Perhaps it’s the corners that an Avon Barksdale fights with other drug dealers over. How many neighbourhoods around the world are infested with drug crime? Though the track at first listen appears to reference a glamorous and dangerous culture of international organized crime, that’s just part of the genius of it. To many (poor) reviewers, Cherrywine was just an extended to ode to ‘bitches, gangstas, and cocaine’! But for those willing to listen, there’s also a powerful message: let’s get better. Let’s make these corners a place to go, instead of somewhere to buy crack. “A hundred new styles” implying the creativity that’s needed in order for “us (the African American community?) to shine”. But how? “The white horse with the wings to fly” is a clue. Such a beast is also featured on the artwork in the inlay card of Eagles Soar, Oil Flows. It is none other than Buraq, (see fanciful 17th-century Mughal representation below) the winged horse that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) mounted before the Night Journey (Al-Israa wal-Mi’raaj) and ascended the seven heavens until the Lote Tree of the furthest boundary, into the direct presence of Allah. This connection with Islam brings to mind the stories one reads periodically about African American communities embracing Islam and forthwith ridding their communities of crack houses, brothels, and drug dealers in instances of vigilante community-level justice. A famous example was the cleaning up of part of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn under the leadership of Imam Siraj Wahhaj (photo below), may his life be extended.



“Make it a time to move” continues the sense of urgency Lazaro understands is necessary to bring about such a change. I can’t make much of “twist the knives for the place to go” other than the possibility that things will necessarily get worse before they get better. But hopefully “the black light will illuminate the sound, and pushers on blocks will run.” Now they run from blue cop lights only to return before long, but only when black light illuminates the scene, perhaps meaning change from within, will things be transformed for good.



The chorus is my favourite thing: I’ve never heard that kind of vocal sound effect. The different voices he uses each time allude to the different meanings of system. First it’s “your system” and as you listen with earphones plugged, bass drum thumping, synth lines pursuing their slow, demented wobble, there’s no doubt he is in your system. But then it’s “the system”, bringing to mind the way in which this music was released. No mention of who it was, no publicity whatsoever, nothing. They just put it out there and sat back as it infiltrated the system. This gloating tone is contrasted yet again with a third possible way in which to take the words, as the voice becomes childlike: an existential rumination on being. Oddly enough, I exist in this reality. I’m up in the system.

To be continued...

Q: Could the white horse not refer to Pegasus?
A: I have not discounted that idea. Buraq is more likely I think because of the other Islamic symbols in the EPs' artwork, however Pegasus also ascended to heaven at some point, so the idea of elevation is still there. Incidentally, from the 'renaissance' onwards, Pegasus came to symbolise poetry.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

For the Love of Music

Next Shabazz Palaces live show is on December 21st at Neumos:



The article below is from The Stranger and gives a great insight into this project run by SP's other half, Tendai Maraire, who for the Shabazz fanbase outside Seattle, remains shrouded in mystery. What he's up to is quite inspiring. Look out for the compilation CD coming soon and let's hope SP's song is an original.

Tendai Maraire and For the Love of Music

by Trent Moorman

Shabazz Palaces, Macklemore, Mad Rad, Mash Hall, THEE Satisfaction, Champagne Champagne, Cloud Nice, Draze, Meez, Run-a-Way Slaves, Stay Hi Brothers, Young Fast

at Neumos
Tues Dec 21 at 8 pm.

Inside the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club on Martin Luther King Junior Way South, balls fly, packs of kids sprint around, and laughter echoes off the walls of the gymnasium. Across from the basketball courts are doors to a music studio. Huddled over a soundboard there, constructing a beat, are three 15-year-olds and Tendai Maraire of Shabazz Palaces. It's a fat city beat with teeth, and the foursome sways to it. Maraire is the music and arts director here. Over the past year, he's revamped the music program, created a curriculum, and is in the process of turning the studio into a legitimate place to record. All phases are taught, including video. All kids have to do is sign up. In threes, they can come into the studio and work with Sub Pop recording artist Maraire, who grew up on Orcas Street about a mile away.

The studio and the program need money to make them fly. So to raise funds and awareness, Tendai has put together a benefit CD and show called For the Love of Music. Contributors include Shabazz Palaces, Sir Mix-A-Lot, THEESatisfaction, Champagne Champagne, Mad Rad, Macklemore, Fresh Espresso, Mash Hall, and more. Recording is taking place at the Boys & Girls Club, so the kids can see the process firsthand and be a part of it. And that's just how Maraire wants it.

What's your goal with this project?

I want to teach the kids to be self-sufficient. You can't make it in the music industry today if you're not self-sufficient. The notion that someone is going to walk in the room and give you a $2 million deal because you rap is so far out the door. I think kids need to comprehend that. One of the kids I'm working with, Jamal, got to watch (and film) Buffalo Madonna when he came in here to record for this CD, and it was huge for him. Jamal's mother told me in a phone conversation that Jamal had learned a lot seeing the way one of them was so serious. The way Buffalo walked into the studio, took his shirt off, got into a zone, and then nailed his stuff. I told her, that's exactly why I wanted Jamal to see people like that. That's why I want these kids to see real sessions and be around professionals. That's what I'm trying to do with the program. 'Cause when you see that, you realize, these guys aren't joking. This is serious business.

What's your method of teaching?

I think hands-on is best. That way they have a real understanding. I want them to learn the basics, too, from the ground up. So they can take this knowledge and go into any studio and work. I run the program like a regular studio session. It just wouldn't be real if it were any other way.

How did you get involved with the Boys & Girls Club?

I've known program director Rick Dupree for years; he knows me from my family. He knows I'm in music, so he asked me to come in and check out the studio. He wanted me to come in and tell him if they had the right equipment. I came in and liked what I saw. My involvement was discussed, and I said, "Okay, but I don't do something unless it's full bore." I said I'd get involved, but it had to be done right. I told them what my stipulations would be, what type of freedom I would need, and how long it would take. It was obvious they were making an effort to have a serious studio. For me, because they were making that effort, it was worth it—to get it to the next level.

I've always seen the Boys & Girls Clubs as basketball spots, places that generate great basketball players. I see this as an opportunity to build a music program with that same mentality. So in 10 or 15 years, people will know artists who came out of here. I want this to be more than just a state-of-the-art music facility; I want to produce real talent out of here. I want it to inspire kids to move on. I'd like to see it get to the point where it sustains itself. I want to start bringing in different producers to teach so the kids can see different styles, like Vitamin D, Erik Blood, and Jake One. I want to bring Thaddeus Turner in to teach guitar.

What is the status of the studio now?

I've taken it from a GarageBand studio to a ProTools studio. And I'm now implementing Ableton and other things. We need better mics, better drum mics. I'd like to be able to have a real drum set in here, and be able to record it correctly. Same thing with guitar. Microphones are one of the things that this benefit is working toward. I'd like to be able to record choirs. I'd really like to get adequate equipment so that when the kids walk out of here, they're industry-ready. I want them to be able to go into Bad Animals and be able to know what's up. I want them to have working knowledge. I'm not helping them if I'm not giving them that.

There's a basketball court right next to the studio. And ping-pong and foosball. Are you worried about kids running and jumping around on the basketball court and then coming in here and breaking things?

This is the urban community. Where I grew up, the studio was in the basement of your house, with your mom upstairs and commotion going on. I did a compilation a few years ago in the projects with Vitamin D, Boom Bap, and Jason Black. Several people came in and recorded in my bathroom, and all throughout the house was yelling and screaming and life. I see this as like that.

That's cool that they get to watch actual sessions with you.

I think so. I try to keep it to three kids a class. One will engineer, one will control the board, and one will do their song. Then they rotate. So everyone's learning everything at the same time. Most kids just want to rap, but I'll set it up so that in order for them to get their turn on the mic, they'll have to engineer the other person's session first. And then that kid will do the same for them. It gives them incentive to do it right and pay attention. I teach them little by little.

Where did you learn?

My family. My first studio session was when I was 12 years old and I recorded a Zimbabwean album with traditional marimbas. I was assisting someone. Then I just started going into studios. There was Let's Do It Productions. The Ezelle family had a studio and were very instrumental in the recording community. We all went there and recorded. He would let us come in at midnight and be the last session of the day. I'd put the key under the mat when we were finished.

This area has gone through so much change.

This was the projects before. It's good change. I want to show the kids that this studio is worth it. Because it's not the norm. It's something special and different going on here with this Boys & Girls Club studio. Some people have gone their whole lives and not gotten to record in a place as nice as this.

You got Sir Mix-A-Lot on the CD!

Yes. He's a Boys & Girls Club guy. Boys & Girls Club gave him a lot of support back in the day. I remember sneaking into Mix-A-Lot parties when I was 8 to 10 years old.

This is a good thing you've got going here.

It feels good to be able to make a difference in someone's life. Some kids come in thinking they're a Blood, from the Central to the South End, with beef. They want to rap some things that are pretty bad ideas. I can say to them that I think it's a bad idea and they will respect it. One kid has it tough, he was homeless, didn't know where he was going to get his next meal, and he loves to rap. I've heard he's kind of dangerous and what not. But when he comes in here, he's straight and he listens. We were trying to put him in a position where he can better his life. Unfortunately, at this point, it's not a happy ending. We didn't have the resources to keep helping him. We had him checked into a shelter, but after a while his time there ran out. So we've lost him, for now. I have about six of his songs on the computer here, and they're good, and I want to keep working with him, and keep helping him, but we need some resources. He's still out there. Hopefully, we can raise these funds and I can get him back in here.

Where do you see this program in a couple years.

I'd like to get it to the point where there's a waiting list. It's packed. And kids are funneling in here from all over, and it gets so out of hand, with so much good stuff happening, that the Boys & Girls Clubs of America has to say, "Okay, we need to put one of these in Mercer Island, one in the Central District, there need to be more of these programs. What do we need to do to make that happen?" I want to get it to the point where they have to open up other music programs like this. And then it will feed on itself, kids who were part of the program will be teaching it. It will take some time. I've seen several music programs come and go in the black community. So I'm willing to put the time in and see it through, because I believe it's a good thing. This community, and the people and the music that comes out of it, are worth it. There's a process to growing a tree before it can bear fruit.

The For the Love of Music release show is Tues Dec 21 at Neumos. With Shabazz Palaces, THEESatisfaction, Champagne Champagne, Mash Hall, Macklemore, Mad Rad, and more.

0.49 seconds

P.E.A.C.E. (Freestyle Fellowship) & Divine Styler (clip from the movie Freestyle)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Radio Documentary




KEXP 90.3 FM (Seattle, WA) had a series entitled "KEXP Documentaries: Hip Hip - The New Seattle Sound" and one of the episodes addressed Shabazz and includes an interview.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Saturday Night



The next show will be on Saturday in Seattle in aid of the Andy Kotowicz Foundation. Andy worked for Sub Pop Records (SP's label) and died recently in a car accident, so this is a benefit concert with all proceeds going to the Foundation to care for his family.

Saturday, December 4th:
A Concert for The Andy Kotowicz Family Foundation with Shabazz Palaces, Vetiver, Fruit Bats, Wolf Eyes, Pissed Jeans, Mudhoney, A Frames/AFCGT, and Michael Yonkers
-at Seattle's Showbox at the Market. $20

Music

Spectre f/ Laila, "Black Widow", Death Before Dying (Wordsound 2010)

Sealife




A Web Trawl unearthing a variety of tributes to Shabazz Palaces from the digital realm.

The New Confusion introduces SP to its readers.

Gorilla vs Bear puts Lazaro's CDs at number 3 in its Top 20 of 2010 - they must really like it (since it was released in 2009)

Cool Russian blog Guerilla presents a lengthy feature on SP in historical context for the cyrilically fluent. Google translate however delivers poetical truths like "Shabazz is a short course in the ghetto etiquette and the program will survive in the slums, delivered in a dark box heartbreaking graymovyh riddimov and severe klepsov from the mid-80's."

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wha gwaan?

I found this completely by chance...!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Legends



(Artwork by Khalid at Muharraqi Studios.)

Matson on Music offers musings on myth and uncovers meanings of the lyric, "Aristotle down in Kingston" from 'Show Tonight'. Read here.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Wire




The first piece on Shabazz in an international print publication! Lisa Blanning's short and sweet article for readers of respected 'modern music' magazine The Wire is a good read and ends with a jewel of truth.

Lisa Blanning, "Living in a Material World", The Wire (Dec 2010)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Names - I

The Shabazz Palaces EPs that were released in 2009 have titles, although few know them. It's commonly supposed that the one with the 'palace' logo is simply self-titled, while the one with the sword logo is called 'of light', due to the words Shabazz Palaces of Light on the spine. In fact, the names of the EPs are to be found on the back flaps, in Arabic. As for the 'self-titled' EP, the words translate to Eagles Soar, Oil Flows. The 'Of Light' EP is simply named The Seven New.

Eagles Soar, Oil Flows

There are many ways we could read this. Most obviously, it's a summation of the age we live in, one dominated by the empire's geopolitical designs. In this reading, the eagle symbolises the empire, which invades countries, topples elected leaders, and maintains tyrants in power in order to secure a 'strategic advantage'. While others fly low having had their wings clipped (or ripped off), the empire is able to soar far above. The reason? Oil.



It might remind you of a lyric from one of SP's songs: "One eagle, a billion crows" which in turn is reminiscent of a lyric from Sleep Pretty Girl by Cherrywine: "For every playground, there's ten empty lots".

The reason why this title works so well, however, is its 'elemental' power. That seems to me to be a key adjective to describe SP's sound. Raw. Primal. Furious. And what bird is more elemental than the Eagle? S H Nasr points out the poverty of the modern scientistic way of viewing the world that equates reliable knowledge only with empirical science by asking that because the Native Americans didn't dissect and study the Eagle in a laboratory, should we then conclude that they didn't know anything about the creature that was central to their deepest beliefs? They knew. Because their hearts were open to the metaphysical realm, and after all man needs art because it is provides an avenue through which we can connect to this beyond and thus transcend our physical form and fulfill our true potential.



Oil likewise is an elemental substance whose composition is full of meaning. What is it made from? Countless dead animals, plants, and minerals that changed form over millions of years. Life has died to create it, and as we see today, lives are being lost in chasing it and extracting its precious hydrocarbons. But while the lives lost in its creation were those of lesser life-forms, and happened naturally over eons, the lives lost in its extraction are those of humans, and their deaths are abrupt, unnatural, and needless.

In a Cherrywine interview, Lazaro said of See For Miles (with its baffling refrain of "cocaine's coming") that the thing about cocaine is that "it's so white. When you start thinking about that, the connotations get real real heavy." One might likewise say, the thing about crude oil is that it's so black.

The choice of verbs too is interesting. Soaring and flowing represent effortlessness. This is a quality that we all associate with genius in every field, not least of which, art. Many artists are good, but to be great (or a genius) you have to exhibit effortlessness born from some intangible 'divine instinct' whose source is cloaked in mystery, although light is a good place to start.


Q: Did SP choose Arabic for the EP titles just because it looks cool?
A: There is more to it than that. On a general level, writing something in a language the audience generally doesn't understand encourages us to ask someone who knows. In the case of Arabic, its speakers (and Muslims generally) are being attacked and vilified today just as other groups were previously. The empire's propaganda machine tells us what to think of them. But what if we actually spoke to that Arabic girl in our class, or the guy in the shop, and got to know them? In an age where friends are more likely to sit round a coffee table each staring into a computer/phone/ipad screen this is a wake up call. It was after dinner with some brothers one of whom was an Arabist that we translated the names, and it was great fun! Initially we translated it as Oil Pours Eagles Circle, (Arabic words can have several meanings) the initials of which are OPEC! But after hearing the words "eagles soar n' oil flows, we will pay back what they owe" in one song, the truth was uncovered.

[To be continued...]

Myuzikvdhaweek

This is just too sick... may this track be on the new album.

Show Tonight (Live at the Wild Buffalo, Bellingham WA, 8th Oct 2010)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Music of the Week

Bill Laswell's Axiom Sound System w/ Pharoah Sanders (live)

(Pharoah Sanders - sax; Toshinori Kondo - trumpet; Hamid Drake - drums; Abegasu Shiota - keyboards; Bill Laswell - bass; Foday Musa Suso - vocals & kora; Aiyb Dieng - percussion)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tama


(Retrograph by Alan Jaras, from I Want You magazine)

The Ishmaelites weblog team were blessed to receive a message from 'within the palace walls' themselves recently. Palaceer Lazaro promised even more unique material in photo and video form in the future... The subject of this his first communique was, fittingly, the title of his latest project and the Source of his ideas:

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

the title palaces of light was as all my ideas are a divine inspiration. i see them in my mind. they look like everything and nothing. unanimous before my perception. vast challenges to my ability and understanding. vast accelerants to my creativity. vast oceans of definite endlessness. the jewel from the mother you sent me made me think of it. i dont know where my ideas come from i only know they come from light. even, especially the "dark" ones tho i never think or feel dark when i make.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Ample food for thought here. Hopefully we'll have time to really get into serious discussion of these issues soon, but let's not delay; what do you dear readers make of this enigmatic offering?

Peace.

Q: What's the "jewel from the mother" he refers to?
A: That is the well-known mystical verse of the Recitation which I had sent him, the Sign of Light:

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Live and Uncut

'Digable Planets v.3' play tonight at the Distillery in Calgary, Canada. Appears SP's no-promotion approach is being extended to DP shows too.



And on Friday September 17th, a very special night in Seattle:

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Freestylin all week

Dear readers, accept my apologies for the dry spell please. I flew the family nest, crossed the atlantic, and have been in various locations in the UK taking care of various things before a honeymoon in Turkey (Istanbul!)in a couple of weeks. Plus I have no laptop. And: Ramadan.

So here's a nice clip of Ish and Common freestyling at University of Washington earlier in the year. Needless to say Lazaro's style was infinitely freer with his limitless creativity. Respect to Common but performing besides the man did him no favours. Most don't know that Ish is probably one of the best straight freestylers around... no corny manic word gymanstics, no clicheed phrases, just an all-out attack from all sides. Most need to concentrate so hard on the lyrics their flow just plods along but to mess with both so effortlessly and then bring all the different life experiences, worlds and influences together so poetically. Overall you get the impression of unexpected lights, jewels, wonderment, transcendence.
This is definitely not your average freestyle couplet,

Ice look dazzlin'
Seats on the laid-back; time on javelins


Are you serious?? Too sick.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

City of the Week

Bill Laswell - Kashi (City of Light, 1997, Sub Rosa Records)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

See the Music of the Week

Balam Acab - See Birds (Tri Angle, 2010)

Seattle Capitol Hill Block Party III - Video Footage

Allahu Akbar (God is the Greatest)


Tendai's Mbira intro to Blastit


Break Bread


Automatic Push Button Remote Control Synthetic Genetic Commands Your Soul


Seattle Capitol Hill Block Party II - Photographs


By Alan Crick


By Spratt504


By Spratt504


By Jason Tang


By Spratt504


By Alan Berner, from Matson on Music

Seattle Capitol Hill Block Party I - Reviews



Eyewitnesses present testimony of SP's second sonic assault on Seattle.

-The Three Imaginary Girls blog said:

There have been criticisms and speculations that Shabazz Palaces' set was hampered by some struggling sound problems and that it should have been in a less airy, open environment. Due to the music being connected to metanoid images of relational decay and underground struggle, some reported they would have preferred the performance held at Neumos down the block instead of the main stage. I agree in theory, but performance just isn't about sound, it's about vibe. SP actually sound like they have a staggering root in hardcore communal scenes like DC's Go-Go and syncopated, anthemic groups such as King Sunny Ade and other Juju performers. Because they are as prophetically prayed for and prized as a band like The Clash in the early punk days, people have extremely high expectations. As for the sound, well, it was the first humungous show of the BP, and festivals always have early kinks to work out, so all eyes and ears were wide open to catch any flaw. The problem is, for their second show, Ishmael and his collective created music that was extremely hard for most bands at the CHBP to follow. Sour grapes, anyone? Props to the scheduling people for being so assertive and kicking things off atomically with SP.

-As for the Seattle Subsonic blog:

I kind of figured going in that Shabazz Palaces might end up TOTALLY RULING. And guess what, their sun-shrouded, mid-evening set TOTALLY RULED. It was the best thing I saw all day, and my day included U.S.F., Champagne Champagne, Mahjongg, and Holy Fuck. The mystical afro-centric output from these cloak-n-dagger rap wizards put his eminence (at this point, you have to use a word like that) Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler on full point in front of a full main stage crowd. People were overheard using exclamations like “Houdini” and “a modern Rick James” (probably due to the dark purple shirt unbuttoned halfway down Ish’s chest; FLY!). I wouldn’t necessarily advocate repeating those analogies to anyone, but I can understand their inception. If you’ve slept on Shabazz up until now, I highly suggest you rectify that because, with all due respect to Sir Mix-A-Lot, Vitamin D, the Blue Scholars or any other local hip-hoppers to make tall waves, Butler and his congo compadre Tendai Maraire have put such a magical and heretofore unfathomable spin on a tired genre, that it’s practically a crime if you don’t. High praise indeed, but it’s hard not be struck by Shabazz Palaces unique concoction of intelligent thuggery and wide, Central District-born worldviews, all presented with a modest Islamic militancy, window rattlin’ bass, and swirly, crazy-ass electro beats. I can only think of two other rap albums that I might place the 2 EPs Shabazz Palaces has produced before on my desert island hip-hop list (taste indicator: All Eyez On Me by Tupac and Life Is…Too Short by Too Short), and that wouldn’t even be a given at this point.

Ish’s voice did sound higher than normal (huffin’ that helium before his set?), which was mildly confusing/distracting, but the tightness of his cadence and the gravity of his mindset brought everything to the level. He seemed to fire more quickly than he does on record, and you could tell he was hyped, even if their stage presence in general seems subdued. It’s because they know they’re right. I can guarantee that the duo made many new fans yesterday. Local, deep-voiced Shabazz collaborator Dougie came onstage for his three cuts, and they even played three new songs, by my count.

-The Seattle Times' Andrew Matson wrote:

What was up with Palaceer Lazaro's vocals? Following a lengthy and (what looked like a) frustrating sound check, the auteur behind Central District avant-rap act Shabazz Palaces rapped into his microphone like normal but his voice came out thin and, to my ears, double-tracked and panned to the Main Stage speakers' peripheries. By contrast, percussionist/back-up vocalist Tendai Maraire's vocals came across full and centered. It was a shame because Lazaro is the best rapper in Seattle by roughly one billion miles, and one where details matter, where slight nuances in pronunciation reveal new rhythms and meanings.

He looked great, though, lips sneering, eyes alternatingly downcast and googly. Clothed in all-fuschia everything, with bright white high tops on his feet and a wooden medallion of dislocated angel wings around his neck, he was easily the best dressed Block Party performer all day.

Shabazz's set included songs from its 2009 "Shabazz Palaces" and "Of Light" micro-albums, with minor variations. The seething "Capitol 5" featured a gothic street verse from fellow Central District rapper Dougie, and its extended chant-style outro was excised and used earlier in the set as an interlude. "Find Out" and "Blastit" were notably excellent sounding, with the bass and drums on the former full of wow and crack, and Maraire's mbira on the latter supplying metallic texture.

Unreleased Shabazz songs saw the light of day, too. One had Lazaro chanting "Allahu Akbar" and freestyling over a boom-snap rhythm: "Tendai / stay fly." Another was a slow sweep with swooping bass lines; Maraire played shakers and cooed into his microphone while Butler Lazaro rapped something about being "All up in your system." Toward the end of the set came a new song built around a mantra: "Automatic push button remote control / synthetic genetic command your soul."

-Meanwhile, from the pen of Travis Hay of Ear Candy:

Shabazz Palaces had the thousands of people watching them enraptured by their non-traditional hip-hop beats and Ish Butler's distinctive flow. Initially I wasn't going to watch Shabazz Palaces because their set at Neumos in January was so epic that I didn't want to taint that experience but I am glad I did watch a solid 25 minutes of their CHBP set (which was only their second public performance in Seattle). Yes, I left Shabazz early to see Unnatural Helpers but I saw enough of Shabazz's set to affirm my belief that they are indeed the real deal and they produce the best hip-hop Seattle has ever seen.

-And finally, The Stranger's Brendan Kiley felt that

Shabazz Palaces Were a Great Way to Kick Off Block Party. They were. Best show of the weekend so far—and maybe best show of the weekend.

But their paranoid, claustrophobic sound works much better in a cave (like their legendary coming-out show at Neumos) than outdoors in the late afternoon.

Just saying.

Still, they did what they do with excellence and grace. And Ish can wear purple—not everybody can pull that off. And I had at least three conversations with people in the crowd who hadn't seen SP before, thought they were fantastic (even outside of a cave), and had no idea Ishmael had been a part of Digable Planets. And they listened with a whole new level of intensity.

Meaning: the legend continues. In the sunset.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

BKLYN: Weeksville Photographs



Back in April I was hoping to catch my first SP live show when Digable played London. Ish remarked that Tendai hadn't been able to get his passport in time, but that he still wanted to perform some solo Shabazz on tour, but when his laptop was thieved in Brussels it was clear it wasn't meant to be.



Finding myself in the DC environs a few months later I was overjoyed to find out SP were playing an almost secret gig as part of their covert summer tour in the Weeksville Heritage Centre in Brooklyn NY. This place marks the first free African American community in the land, and every July they put on free garden parties every weekend. The plan was to head up to NY on friday for which we booked tickets on the Chinatown bus, but then my newlywed came down ill so we lost those. On saturday morning we decided to go up anyway, and booked a rental car but went to pick it up and discovered the place closed 2 minutes earlier, at noon! Once again, it was clear it wasn't meant to be. So third time lucky inshallah.



So here are some photographs of the bug day courtesy of Ed Marshall. Note all three group members are in the house.








Friday, July 23, 2010

Music in the House Tonight

This week: an unreleased track that Shabazz have performed at their live shows, we could call it Show Tonight and hope for a studio version on the next releases. Artists always say live shows allow their songs to be fresh and different each time. Doing so with a non-live instrumentation set up presents its own challenges, and what is amazing about Shabazz is firstly how they put on a compelling live show whilst at the same time being just two guys behind some drums and a laptop and mpc - an arrangement that might cure insomnia attempted by the average. But secondly the digital avenue allows them to literally change each song each time they play, so listen for the new sounds and lyrics in this version, unheard in a previous performance (from their debut show in January, see 2nd video below), which again will most likely be very different next time...

Shabazz Palaces - Show Tonight (Live at Rotture, Portland, OR. July 14 2010)



Shabazz Palaces - Show Tonight (Live at Neumos, Seattle, WA. January 8 2010)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Innerview



Just heard a great interview with Ish thanks to Breaktime with Seattle Show Gal. It's a good half hour and in real time, very ad hoc with lots of laughter and strange pauses!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tour Dates




Shabazz Palaces haven't announced the fact they're touring but through some web trawling here's what I've found:

July 14 - Portland, OR (Rotture)
July 15 - Sebastopol, CA (Hopmonk Tavern)
July 16 - San Francisco, CA (Yoshis)
July 17 - Brooklyn, NY (Weeksville Heritage Centre)
July 23 - Seattle, WA (Capital Hill Block Party)

...and with Digable:

August 20 - Seattle, WA (Neumos)

Let me know of any other dates you find. Will try to make the Brooklyn show.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Birthday Music

Forgive the lack of updates... In the last two weeks I had my final exams, moved house and flew across the atlantic to get married, which will happen in a few days. Watch out for SP summer tour dates coming soon.

Oh yes, today is Palaceer Lazaro's birthday...! May he live long and continue to astound the world. What a blessing to live in the time of his music. This remix of that song on 4Hero's Mercury Music Award-winning Two Pages album is much better than the original one produced by Shawn J. Period. I never understood why, if they decided to bring in an outside producer, they didn't get Ish to do it. The result was underwhelming, but this remix brings out the full potential allowing the lyrics to shine. This is just a happy piece of music and a sweet video.

4Hero feat. Ish aka Butterfly - The Action (Visioneers remix) (The Remix Album, Raw Canvas Records, 2004)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Week's Music

As with all these selections you must have serious bass and turn up the volume. All-time classic from The Ill Saint's second LP. Long live Wordsound.

Spectre feat. Sensational - Pillars of Smoke (The Second Coming, Wordsound Recordings, 1998)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Advice to Recording Artists


Quote of the day from recordingmag.com:

Spend a lot of time listening. I listen all the time; I don’t have a TV or a Sega or all that stuff. And respect the players that did it all.
- Ishmael Butler

La Musique de la Semaine


Please excuse the redecoration work. Nice mixtape of Lazaro's tracks past and present by Electric Adolescence called "The Many Moons of Digable Planets". Don't read the tracklisting, just press PLAY > and enjoy the sounds while creating.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Essay from Sound on the Sound




Dear readers,

I present you with the first lengthy rumination on SP I've come across, hopefully the first of many. I agree with everything that Sound on the Sound's Josh writes, although I would say he over-emphasises SP's 'anti-System' stance, giving the impression of it being somewhat laboured and reactionary. I prefer to view them as simply being who they are, making the music they want to make, and only incidentally slaying all these false gods. He writes,

"Cognizant that rap has lost its way, Shabazz Palaces seem to have surfaced especially to remind us, and particularly those within the hip hop community itself, that the future isn’t buying pre-made beats to rhyme over between sips of cough syrup."

It's beautiful that people feel that SP has surfaced to remind the pop rap circus, but I doubt the musicians themselves think of it like that, or even particularly care for the pop side. Rather, an artist makes music simply because he can't help but do it, and an artist (particularly a poet, historically) also presents society with truth messages in a uniquely devastating way, but not as part of an overly-conscious plan. So SP does achieve all the things the article says they achieve, but that's just how they do their thing:

Survival.
With style.


Q: But your position is no stronger, and suggests that the music is not the result of labour, vision, and calculation but merely a happy by-product of intuition.
A: Yes, that is the weakness of my argument. Of course it's all conceived, planned and every beat and word is there for a reason. But if it's 'calculation' then it's a kind of 'instinctive calculation'. Ultimately that's someting personal to each artist, and not being a very artistic person myself I would like to hear what poetic people themselves have to say about this aspect of the creative process.

(Photograph by Renee McMahon)

The Weekly Music


Handed in my dissertation: 14,000 words on Islamic Revivalism in British India in the bag. Just one exam to go (22nd June) and then... freedom. Shabazz Palaces' Sasquatch appearance had everyone raving: help me find some footage someone.

Fell in love with this the first time I heard it on the radio and after much searching, located the correct slice of wax.

Los Hermanos - Quetzal (Original Mix), (Los Hermanos, 2002)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Music of the Week: 4


The weeks preceding a dissertation deadline are bound to be intense. This has been my soundtrack:

Divine Styler f/ Cokni O'Dire - The Grand Design (Wordpower 2: Directrix, 1999, DTX Recordings)

Abercrombie and Fitchpork




Recently Pitchfork has been singing SP's praises, naming Hottabatch their favourite new song.

Then they delivered an interview with Lazaro, which was even nicer.

But then they showed their true colours and published an admiring but strikingly ignorant review of the albums. When I first read it I thought oh I've been away from 'trendy' sites like this for too long and this is some kind of ironical new way of writing that appears limitlessly simplistic and superficial. Nope. "No intelligent life here..."

On the upside, I then found a critique of the review in question by a writer whose blog is dedicated to reviews of Pitchfork reviews (seriously), and who has a low toleranace level for braindead writing. He doesn't appear to know SP's music or even to have heard them so imagine how much stronger his criticisms would be were he a fan. Over to him:

-------
"2. that review is better than the Shabazz Palaces review, which could not give you any less of a sense of how these records sound or what they’re about. for reasons i’m about to get into this review garners my rare and uncoveted Worst New Review!!! read it now if you haven’t yet.

the syntax is so stilted it’s uncomfortable, reads like an 11th-grader wrote it for a high school newspaper. like the only mention of lyrics is this: “Lazaro occasionally spits conscious verses about struggling and corruption, but he’s also not afraid to go all hardhead and talk tough. His lyrical subjects can be quotidian, frequently focusing on food and hanging out.” i’m not gonna address the meaningless-without-context, generic rap-oriented word choice in “not afraid to go all hardhead and talk tough”, but two records packed with raps and that’s all the preview we get? no quotes? are there any rhymes worthy of mention on this?

this sentence is retarded and is worst sentence in the whole review: “It’s clear that he wants his art to be taken seriously, and based on his output so far it certainly will.” who doesn’t want their art to be taken seriously? “Weird” Al Yankovic, David Hasslehoff? what the fuck kind of sentence is this? this is the 11th graderese i was talking about

and why is fitzmaurice insisting on refusing to let Palaceer Shabazz present himself the way he wants to? and NOT calling him by the name he’s asking to be called by? “Hopefully, Palaceer Lazaro— oh, fuck it, call him Ishmael” — nobody but Rick Ross still calls Diddy “Puff Daddy” and we certainly don’t call MF Doom “Zev Love X” so why be an asshole to this guy?

and then in the last paragraph, “reemergence doesn’t always guarantee eternal success, as Doom’s ever-unspooling narrative shows.” bro do you read pitchfork reviews or listen to Doom? you know his last full-length (from last year) got an 8.0? and his last EP (from this year) got a 7.2 (which is real high for any EP that’s not by animal collective)? how is DOOM unspooling? he’s been active and consistently putting out quality reords for years, i’d say he’s been among the MOST CONSISTENT presences in rap, given the volatility in the quality of work of even the highest-tier rappers. did any editors look at this review? man step your games up, it’s never too late in the day to shift this review down to the number 5 slot, or, like, replace it with whatever Tom Breihan has to say about the record

i never go in on a review like this but fuck this review"
-From Pitchfork Reviews Reviews
-------

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Music of the Week: 3

As far as I know this is the only available video of an original (90s) performance of 9th Wonder on the web. The players in the band are ridiculous: major league pros. Also, the clip ends with a rendition of the 9th Wonder Amina/Dania remix which was only available on the rare 9th Wonder: Mad Slicker Remixes single. Both versions sound much more interesting compared to the recorded versions.

Digable Planets - 9th Wonder & 9th Wonder remix (live on the Jon Stewart show, 1994)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Music of the Week: 2


Roots Control - Inner Vision (Wordsound Recordings, 1996)

London Posse




I got my tickets for the London show on April 22nd a while ago. The day before Ish wrote me saying he put me on the guestlist +3 and asked if I could bring some newspapers in Arabic (!??) No problems of course all the tickets were put to good use and I brought my fiance, her friend, and my bros from London town (breakspears boys). We met the man himself in the venue about an hour before they went on stage. Just like in 2005, the legendary force behind some of the freshest music ever made was as affable, real, and charismatic as can be. We chatted for a while, can't remember it all but I did ask about his interest in learning Arabic. Butterfly responded with some feelings and sentiments hard to quote literally but I got the impression he had been blessed with apprehension of the role of the language as a means of transport. I asked whether his old album Ishmael Since 1999 would ever come out. Not only did he not have any copies of the songs any more but he also didn't know any one who had the album and asked if I knew anyone who did! He then confirmed another 'fear' of mine... a 2nd Cherrywine album had indeed been completed c.2005 and Ish similarly just let that recede into the past once Shabazz Palaces began to emerge. 'I've always been happy to just work on something and then let it go' is how he explained his admittedly healthy artistic attitude. Meanwhile us fans can only dream of unknown aural landscapes off-limits for the time being at least. He also mentioned how the tour van was broken into in Brussels and his laptop was stolen. That was a big shame since he had planned to perform SP songs on this tour. Tendai was supposed to come too but couldn't get his passport in time. We asked how he was enjoying London and he responded by expressing his like of the city: I missed him earlier in the day because he'd been out and managed to cover both the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern museums where he checked the exhibition by one of his favourite artists, Chris Ofili. My lady and I gave him a Yemeni mantle; it elated us to see him enrobed in it in his Norway MTV interview which is on vimeo (not really worth watching though... impressive how consistently, brilliantly mediocre MTV remains).

He dropped some hot crumbs of news about SP though: The next 2 albums are going to be released with a Shabazz Palaces feature-length film. There's more: it's being done in collaboration with Kahlil Joseph. And more: the man himself will be acting in it. You heard it here first.

It was good to see C-Know the Doodlebug too. He was on top form and full of good vibrations which he transmitted to the sold out crowd at the Jazz Cafe. I asked him if we'd ever hear some unreleased Digable b-sides and he responded that EMI had all the tapes so it was not beyond the limits of possibility. Anyway the show later that night was seismic. I think I heard some new rhymes that others won't hear until the new SP stuff drops. The band were decent, too: they are Cee-know's band and are all solid musicians. The drummer was particularly tasteful, and sounded supreme on 9th Wonder. You can hear the bassist and guitarist's side project here. Ish was on another level of intensity altogether, though. The crowd was feeling it and that seemed to take his performance to another plane. Afterwards, amidst the ruins on the dancefloor as a dazed crowd filtered out into the night the bassist opined that Ish is making the best stuff of his career at the moment. I could but nod, thankful to have witnessed thunder and lightning once again.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Poetry Inspired by SP




A close friend of mine penned this after hearing Shabazz Palaces and agreed to share. Check Yusuf Misdaq's work (poetry, music, fiction writing, and video documentaries) at his website. If any of you readers have some of your art which is inspired by or somehow related to SP, let us know...

This poem is inspired by the Shabazz Palaces project. Another poem likewise inspired by Ishmael Butler appears in Y. Misdaq's upcoming book of poems 'The Beautiful / Palace Prayers'.


Brandished polished pushers
Hexagram gram grammarian man
Motion marvel at the mansion Mercutio
Build and Guild, the Gilded crest waves of next
Flex spine-water-wisdom when it
Curves to freedom
Curving to freedominion dome-dome-delight
Full far away sands see the star-tipped turqoise
Crescent in the eye-sky
Grandio-galax.
Go for green-gallons of the
Ocean, sip down.


Y. Misdaq aka Yoshi, 2010.

Music of the Week: 1


My dissertation is due on 31st May and I'm very behind schedule; please excuse the lack of updates. I have much news and links to share, best of all I was blessed to spend some time with Ish during his stop in London touring with Doodlebug. All that to be related later. For now I'll commence sharing some music which listeners of Shabazz Palaces might dig.

Muslimgauze - Mullah Said (Staalplaat, 1998)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mad Shows, Flows, Airplanes Overseas




Digable Planets are now on tour in western Europe!!! Thank you brothers for bringing the love to us here in this increasingly xenophobic corner of the world. I'll be at the London show, and am sure it'll be even better than their phenomenal 2005 appearance, also at the Jazz Cafe. Backed by UGO, who collaborated with Doodlebug back in the day. Dates:

9 Apr 2010, Bohannon, Berlin
10 Apr 2010, Stadtkeller, Linz
11 Apr 2010, Nexx, Brussels
14 Apr 2010, Nouveau Kasino, Paris
15 Apr 2010, Subway, Cologne
16 Apr 2010, Rust, Copenhagen
19 Apr 2010, Paradiso, Amsterdam
22 Apr 2010, Jazz Cafe, London
23 Apr 2010, Crawdaddy, Dublin
24 Apr 2010, MTV Europe, interview, Oslo

Canadian Tour in May: details TBA.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

We All Go



Kevin Capp offers a review of Shabazz Palaces hometown debut back in January, bringing out something of the feel of the night. He should note that the headgear in question was a turban, not a 'headscarf'; the latter are worn by women. In the future we can talk about the divine symbolism of the turban. I need a scanner to depict what a Sheikh from Timbuktu explained about that style of turban; it was fascinating.


San Franciscans were treated to a Digable Planets w/Camp Lo show on March 25th. They were backed by Daru Jones's band, and there's a fascinating video clip on You Tube showing the musicians rehearsing the songs. Real musicians. They run through 9th Wonder and Jettin' but best of all offer a sweet take on the beloved and majestic Black Ego. Listen to the bassline as the chords change. Unparalelled. Talking of stupendous musicians, what happened to the Cherrywine players??


The Seattle Times' music writer Andrew Matson has been doing sterling work spreading the word about SP for a good while now via his blog Matson on Music. Last week he appeared on KUOW 94.9FM and discussed We All Go. His interpretation of the song is totally different to mine, and that is part of the magic... like he said, everyone feels an intimate connection to this music, like it was meant just for them. I'm looking forward to discussing the songs in more detail. Matson's view of it being about everyone going to the club together was something that never occurred to me. I always heard it as a reminder of life's transience. Hopefully we can all bring our own insights to the table and draw out some of the treasures within the palaces.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Who am I?




Graham from The Scroll of Bifurcating Considerations website has penned a nice piece on the chorus to Find Out, showing how it echoes Nietzsche in the belief that we shall 'become ourselves'. It's a thought-provoking analysis and I'm sure Ish knows Nietzsche (I don't) but "You shall become the person you are" seems a decidedly modern European sentiment. Let's contrast that with an aphorism this time from a non-European tradition, by Abdul Hakim Murad (aka Timothy Winter, Lecturer in Divinity at the University of Cambridge): "Islam is not about ‘being yourself’; it is about improving yourself."

The monoculture loves this vague notion of 'finding oneself'; it's a cliche, the man who drops his everyday life and goes off wandering aimlessly to 'find himself'. The idea is that we have the 'real me' buried deep within and that if we travel enough or immerse ourselves in whatever our 'self' tells us it wants for long enough, we'll be there. But what is this 'self' we're being commanded to? Big question, but don't we all feel the self has many possibilities? For practical purposes we could say we have a higher possibility and a lower possibility. "Find out", then, in the sense of transcend your lower possibility, reach for your celestial self. I read an interview with Ish once where he distilled his philosophy. If memory serves it was "elevate. relate. enlighten". Elevation and transcendence are at the heart of all true art and all authentic religion. It's an epic battle to turn your back on that lower possibility. You feel a "pain in your neck, comes from staring at stars" but who said transcendence was easy? Moreover, as another of Shabazz's themes remind us, "ain't promised daylight". Life is fast. My friend's little brother passed away in his sleep a few months ago, he was 24 years old, healthy, and happy. But his heart simply stopped beating and that was that.

Find out. The urgency with which he repeats those words is palpable. The monoculture or "depraved devil's heart system", with its marketing men will welcome the ego and ensure it stays super-sized, but listen to the chorus again. The emphasis is on those two words "find out", not on "you" or "love" or "want" or "need". Ish is clearly taking the spotlight off the ego and its desires and shining it onto the path.

The second part of Graham's piece is about how if you look at the last word of each line in the chorus it can be reread in fascinating ways. This is beautiful. I realised the same thing when I transcribed the lyrics to Rebirth of Slick ten years ago for the sole Digable Planets website during that maddening dry spell. The first words of the first eight lines are: we, them, us, you, he, she, our, they; and of the next eight: who, where, why, when, what, how, was, and finally after all those questions, "'cause". Repeated listens can reveal new musical details and that has always been true of Ish's work, but to me the amazing thing was just finding out more about life, black music, african-american history, and thus finally 'getting' many of (though still nowhere near all) those references on Blowout Comb for instance. Transcribing lyrics has to be added as a third way in which we can engage with these messages.

Q: What's wrong with going off wandering?
A: Don't get me wrong; I'm all for wandering and getting free but if it's an important journey you have to know where you're going or you might get lost!

Q: Where can I find the interview with that quotation from Butterfly?
A: Brian Coleman's Check the Technique: Liner notes for hip-hop junkies (Villard Books, 2007) Its illuminating interview has Butterfly and Doodlebug speaking on what was going on around the time Reachin' came together.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

This Time... Can Blow Your Mind




I'd forgotten how beautiful this song was: In Here feat. Nia Long from the never-released Ishmael Since 1999 LP. I know there are some promo copies around so if anyone knows how I could obtain or at least hear it please let me know... reading the press release on the old Red Ant Records site was as far as we got. I recall it was co-produced by a Marcel Sanders, and that Ish "wanted the songs to sound like the beginning of the world." A suitable feel for what was to be his rebirth as a solo artist, and perfectly describes the vibe of the few tracks I have heard.

Ish's ability to paint a picture with so many details while keeping an overall harmony is bewildering. Listen to this song: the disillusionment with 'the world' in the first few verses, the mystical/paradisal aspect as "something frozen slides in place", the emotions build up as she listens to his bitter reflections on life before trying to finally reassure him "I'm not going anywhere", at which point the guitar kicks in and man and woman come together as they've always done. No words, just vibrating electric strings making waves. This time can blow your mind, but we've also been given a sanctuary from all that. Coming back down to earth, the last verse can only be one of promise, of fidelity, which is another word for faith. We can't control much of what's outside but our hearts remain our private garden, to either neglect or nurture. There are so many other things about this song that amaze me but which I lack the eloquence to articulate. A true love song.

In Here lyrics:

A thousand plans, a million dreams
The slow crash of everything
The babies know all the words to sing
Spotlight burning down the kings
Out there

Twisting up the shiny wheels
Love kills, fake is real
Can't forget you dollar bill
Everyone'll cut a deal
Out there

It's wild in the rats race
We trying to win and beat the case
Famous(?) leave without a trace
Something frozen slides in place
Out there

It all happens razor fast
Waiting for your chance to blast
Trade love for fun and dough for trust
Ash to cash and dust to dust
Out there

This time
Can blow your mind

But you won't lie and I won't flee
We rich, we broke, we trapped, we free
And I won't lie and you won't freeze
We rich, we broke, we trapped, we free
And we can solve this mystery
Then me is you and you'll be me
In here

Saturday, February 27, 2010

We Only Pursue That Which Destroys




Dividing an artist's career into distinct stages is useful only in so far as it helps us get a grip on what can be a bewilderingly wide spectrum of work. Based on his four artistic personae then, we could view Ish's output as falling under these four phases: Digable Planets, Ishmael, Cherrywine, and Shabazz Palaces. Today's entry covers all of the above.

Firstly, a classic clip (1992?) of Digable performing Rebirth of Slick on In Living Color.

Secondly, a rare and insightful commentary and dialogue by Mtume ya Salaam and Kalamu ya Salaam on Cherrywine and how that particular persona allowed Ish to be as 'political' as ever while distancing himself from the usual political discourse. This is from back in 2005; refreshing to see that someone actually got it! Strictly speaking, Salaam's argument also covers the second phase as his argument draws upon 16th minute, a song from that unreleased 'holy grail', Ishmael Since 1999.

Finally, some Shabazz for you! Andrew Matson was fortunate enough to interview Ish before his debut show, although the end product features less of the interviewee's thoughts than the interviewer's. Telling us of Lazaro's speaking in 'philosophical abstractions about his creative process' and failing to quote him is tantalising to the point of cruelty! Somewhat more satisfyingly, Larry Mizell Jr weighs in with a muscular commentary on Seattle's hip-hop royalty. And a little more here. Finally, here are some photos from the show thanks to Joey Baltimore:









I have to apologise for the lack of updates. I've now realised that I simply won't be able to produce any of my own commentary/essays on Shabazz Palaces until I complete my studies this summer, so until then I hope to continue linking to other good stuff, insha Allah.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Shabazz Palaces of Light Opens Its Doors



Shabazz Palaces' first proper show, in Seattle, was by all accounts something special. Eric Grandy of The Stranger newspaper has written a review here.

So overwhelmed was The Seattle Times's Andrew Matson that he has refused to write a review in his post-gig delirium.



There is also some tantalising video footage, despite the sound quality. Jason Folk Bennet has uploaded the first twelve minutes of the show here and here. A cameraman with a slightly better microphone has uploaded We All Go and Chuch; thanks notioning. Even from the poor footage the tremendousness of the night is undeniably apparent.

From the rabid praise burning up hip-hop message boards, it seems that Shabazz Palaces is continuing to manifest itself in the world, just as it was meant to.